Print Version    Email to Friend
Church leaders appeal for help as Mayon volcano blows top

ALBAY (UCAN): Caritas Philippines has appealed for donations for the relief and rehabilitation of families affected by the ongoing eruption of Mount Mayon in the Albay province.
As at January 25 over 70,000 people had been evacuated to temporary shelters as the volcano started spewing columns of ash as high as 10 kilometres into the atmosphere.
Father Rex Paul Arjona from the Diocese of Legazpi, said most of those affected by the eruption are farmers who live and work within the volcano’s six-kilometre permanent danger zone radius.
“Their lives are disrupted and their means of livelihood suddenly became inaccessible, that is why they need all the help we could give,” he said.
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 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 prioritise the needs of the most vulnerable evacuees,” said Father Arjona.
The government’s National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council 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,” council spokesperson, Romina Marasigan, said.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology hoisted Alert Level 4 on January 22 and advised the public to desist from entering the eight-kilometre danger zone radius 
Bishop Joel Baylon of Legazpi, issued a circular to people in his diocese “to open your homes once again and welcome some of our brothers and sisters.”
He added, “If for whatever reason this is not possible, can we at least consider allowing those to use our toilets and bathrooms?” 
The bishop noted the importance of decongesting many evacuation centres, 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,” he said.
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 1 February 1814, burying the town of Cagsawa and killing at least 1,200 people.
The volcano has so far ejected 6.2 million cubic metres of volcanic materials, including molten rocks, with sulfur dioxide gas emission at an average of 2,466 tons per day.

More from this section