Church leaders appeal for help as Philippine volcano erupts

More than 70,000 people have already been evacuated to temporary shelters
Church leaders appeal for help as Philippine volcano erupts

Mayon Volcano in Albay province spews molten rocks, lava, and ashes as it started to erupt on Jan. 22. (Photo by Basilio Sepe)

ucanews.com reporters, Albay
Philippines
January 25, 2018
The social action arm of the Catholic Church in the Philippines has appealed for donations for the relief and rehabilitation of families affected by the ongoing eruption of Mount Mayon in Albay province.

Over 70,000 people have already been evacuated to temporary shelters as the volcano started spewing columns of ashes as high as ten kilometers this week.

Father Rex Paul Arjona of the Diocese of Legazpi said most of those affected by the eruption are farmers who live and work within the volcano's six-kilometer radius permanent danger zone.

"Their lives are disrupted and their means of livelihood suddenly became inaccessible, that is why they need all the help we could give," said the priest.

Father Arjona said the immediate needs of the affected communities include sleeping mats, mosquito nets, blankets, face masks, hygiene kits, firewood, food, water, toilets, and communal kitchens.

Parishes around the diocese have already activated their respective Parish Disaster Response Committees that set up of soup kitchens.

Church facilities are also being opened to house the most vulnerable evacuees, such as pregnant and lactating mothers, persons with disabilities, and the elderly.

"We are trying to prioritize the needs of the most vulnerable evacuees," said Father Arjona.

The government's National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council has also announced that it has already prepositioned relief goods for the displaced population.

"While evacuation is ongoing ... [we] ensured the prepositioning of food and non-food items when augmentation of relief is necessary," said council spokesman Romina Marasigan.

Residents around Mayon Volcano in the Philippines' Albay province seek shelter in school houses after the mountain started spewing lava and ashes on Jan. 22. (Photo by Basilio Sepe)

 

On Jan. 22, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology raised Alert Level 4 over the volcano and advised the public to desist from entering the eight-kilometer radius danger zone.

Bishop Joel Baylon of Legazpi issued circular letter urging the faithful in his diocese "to open your homes once again and welcome some of our brothers and sisters.

"If for whatever reason this is not possible, can we at least consider allowing those to use our toilets and bathrooms?" added the bishop.

The prelate noted the importance of decongesting many evacuation centers, mostly public schools to lessen the possible spread of disease and other health problems.

Father Edwin Gariguez, head of Caritas Philippines, said his office has already sent initial financial aid to displaced residents.

"We will issue another appeal in the coming days. We are now helping the diocese's social action arm in the needs assessment," Father Gariguez told ucanews.com.

Mount Mayon is the most active volcano in the Philippines, erupting more than 50 times in the past 500 years. Its most destructive eruption was on Feb. 1, 1814, burying the town of Cagsawa and killing at least 1,200 people.

The volcano has so far ejected 6.2 million cubic meters of volcanic materials including molten rocks in the past week, with sulfur dioxide gas emission at an average of 2,466 tons per day.

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