Philippine churches mobilize aid for volcano eruption victims

Authorities urge 'total evacuation' of nearly a million people away from Taal volcano
Philippine churches mobilize aid for volcano eruption victims

Residents living along Taal lake catch fish as Taal volcano erupts near Tanauan town, in Batangas province south of Manila on Jan. 14. (Photo by Ted Aljibe/AFP) 

The Philippines’ Catholic bishops’ conference has urged parishes across the country to hold second collections during Masses to help victims of a volcanic eruption this week.

Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao, president of the conference, said in a pastoral letter that Catholics are called to “acts of charity and solidarity” as thousands had left their homes without enough provisions.

“During this very difficult situation ... we are encouraged to do acts of solidarity,” said the prelate in the letter addressed to fellow bishops and diocesan administrators.

On Jan. 14, authorities urged the “total evacuation” of nearly a million people as Taal volcano, about 60 kilometers from Manila, continued to spew ash up to 14 kilometers into the air.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology warned that an “explosive eruption” could happen in the coming hours or days.

As of Jan. 13, more than 25,000 people had sought shelter in temporary evacuation centers set up by the government.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimated that about 459,000 people lived within a 14-kilometer radius around the volcano while more than 930,000 people lived on a broader 17-kilometer “danger zone.”

Authorities said residents within the immediate area are most at risk from the effects of a potential eruption, including a possible volcanic tsunami in the lake surrounding the volcano.

Archbishop Valles said archdioceses and dioceses across the country need to carry out a second collection during Masses and give this to the most affected local churches.

In Manila Archdiocese, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle issued a pastoral letter requesting that a second collection be taken at all Masses starting Jan. 18.

Archdiocese chancellor, Father Reginald Malicdem, said prayer intentions would also be offered “that the eruptions may end and that all may be safe.”

Archbishop Rolando Tirona of Caceres also made an urgent appeal for prayers and financial support.


Scams amid disaster
 

The bishops’ conference also warned of a scam in which bishops’ names are used to solicit donations.

Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo of Kidapawan said, “scammers are using” his name and of other bishops in “soliciting donations through bank deposits.”

Bishops’ conference secretary-general Father Marvin Mejia urged “everyone to be vigilant and to take precautions by double-checking with the bishop concerned” when responding to donation requests. 

The bishops also warned of businesses taking advantage of the disaster amid reports that prices of some necessities, including face masks, have shot up in the wake of the disaster.

Father Dan Cansino, executive secretary of the Episcopal Commission on Health Care, appealed to health care workers to go to affected areas to help displaced families, especially the elderly and children.

The Philippine Red Cross announced that it has already sent several teams and assets to aid in the ongoing evacuation of residents affected by the eruption of the Taal volcano.

“We advise everyone to take precautionary measures to avoid inhalation of ashes,” said Philippine Red Cross chairman Richard Gordon.

As of Jan. 14, the agency was assisting at least 14,491 individuals in 35 evacuation centers in the provinces of Cavite and Batangas.

Authorities announced that it has already prepared a three-month contingency measure for thousands of its evacuees who were forced to flee their homes.

“There was a time when Taal volcano erupted for six months,” said Joselito Castro, head of the Batangas Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office.

“We are preparing for at least half of that time as a worst-case scenario,” he said.

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