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Philippines

Caritas to offer shelter for those displaced by volcano eruption

Church's social action arm in the Philippines has stressed the urgency to decongest already overcrowded shelters

Mark Saludes, Legazpi City

Mark Saludes, Legazpi City

Published: January 31, 2018 10:33 AM GMT

Updated: January 31, 2018 10:44 AM GMT

Caritas to offer shelter for those displaced by volcano eruption

Families displaced by the eruption of Mayon Volcano in the province of Albay, about 330 kilometers south of the Philippine capital Manila, stay inside a classroom that serves as temporary shelter. (Photo by Angie de Silva)

The social action arm of the Philippine bishops' conference will be setting up tent cities for people displaced by the eruption of a volcano in a province about 330 kilometers south of Manila.

As of Jan. 31, authorities said 23,250 families or 89,828 individuals in 61 villages in the province of Albay have already been affected by the eruption of Mount Mayon.

The government social welfare office said 72,972 people have sought temporary shelter in 76 evacuation centers while 11,993 individuals are staying with relatives in nearby areas.

A "rapid needs assessment" conducted by Caritas Philippines stressed the urgency to decongest overcrowded shelters.

"There is an urgent need for temporary shelters to relieve the congestion," said Father Rex Arjona, social action director of the Diocese of Legazpi.

The priest said classrooms in public schools that are designed to host 40 pupils are now filled with up to 90 evacuees. "It is not conducive especially to the vulnerable ones," said Father Arjona.

"There is a problem on the availability of washrooms," he said, adding that up to 70 people are using one toilet in the evacuation centers.

Jing Rey Henderson, spokesman of Caritas Philippines, said the organization will be relocating the first 500 families in two week’s time.

He said Caritas is already coordinating with town officials to identify locations where the tent cities, which will have sanitation, drainage, and potable water system, will be set up.

"It is a prototype of the kind of evacuation camp that we must build," said Henderson, adding that Caritas is partnering with other faith-based organizations in the project.

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The Catholic Relief Services will build the drainage and water systems.

Father Edwin Gariguez, executive secretary of the social action office of the bishops' conference, said his office is coordinating everything to prevent duplication of relief distribution.

"There is sufficient food aid right now that’s why Caritas is focusing on temporary shelters," he told ucanews.com.

Mount Mayon is the most active of the country’s 22 volcanoes. In 1814, its major magmatic eruption has buried Cagsawa town and killed at least 1,200 people.

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