Scandinavian governments donate relief fund to Taal volcano eruption victims in the Philippines

Denmatk, Norway and Sweden are part of a multi national donor group of countries that will resume dispersing relief to people affected by the current eruption of the Taal Vocano in the Philippines.

The distribution of cash grant was disrupted by the Covid-19 outbreak.

The other donors and partners of the relief effort include the Red Cross Societies and governments of Belgium, Britain, Canada, German, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Spain and Switzerland, as well as DG ECHO and Blizzard Entertainment, Mondelez International Foundation, and Fortive Corporation and other corporate and private donors.


Description of the disaster

On 12 January 2020, the Department of Science and Technology’s Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) raised an Alert Level from 1 to 4 (out of 5) after increasing activity of Taal Volcano, which is located on the island of Luzon in Batangas, Calabarzon (Region IV-A). An Alert Level 4 means that a hazardous explosive eruption is possible within hours to days, and warrants a “Danger Zone” of up to 14 kilometres from the main crater. Taal Volcano is situated on Volcano Island and is listed as a “Permanent Danger Zone”, with permanent settlement on the island not recommended, however, approximately 459,300 people live within the 14 kilometres Danger Zone (OCHA). Taal Volcano is among the most active volcanoes in the Philippines, with more than 30 reported eruptions. On 12 January, PHIVOLCS reported that eruptive activity at Taal Volcano main crater had intensified, with continuous eruptions generating a 15 kilometres of steam laden cloud of super-heated ash, and frequent volcanic lightning raining wet ashfall as far as Quezon City, some 100 kilometres away. This subsequently progressed to a magmatic eruption accompanied by thunder and more lightning. On the advice of PHIVOLCS, pre-cautionary evacuations were conducted in at-risk communities within the 14km Danger Zone in Batangas and Cavite provinces. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared a state of calamity across CALABARZON, as a means of expediting the delivery of humanitarian assistance to those affected.

School students wearing large plastic bags to protect themselves from rain and volcanic dust.

According to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) situational report as of 6 March 2020, the Taal Volcanic eruptions have had the following impact:

• A total of 736,802 people (191,952 families) have been affected in CALABARZON (Region IV-A), Central Luzon (Region III) and National Capital Region (NCR).

• Families displaced:

o At the peak of the crisis, 135,610 people (39,076 families) were being supported in 535 registered evacuation centres (EC), and 170,732 people (44,439 families) were outside the evacuation centres (ECs) (NDRRMC situational report No. 47).

• Damage to infrastructure:

o 14,082 houses were damaged, of which 4,573 were totally damaged (destroyed); and 9,509 partially in the province of Batangas, CALABARZON (Region IV-A).

• Essential services affected

o Eight public and private health facilities were closed as a result of evacuation.

o 264 cities/municipalities suspended classes, and 78 schools in the 14km zone had to be evacuated, affecting approximately 31,000 children (Department of Education).

o 24 cities/municipalities experienced power interruptions, all of which have now been fully restored.

o Three cities/municipalities experienced water supply disruptions, all of which have now been fully restored.

o Nine roads were closed due to damage caused and as a result of lockdown of areas within the 14km Danger Zone.

o 643 flights cancelled due to ashfall (383 domestic and 260 international).

• Damage caused to infrastructure and livelihoods (farming, fishing and tourism) estimated to be approximately CHF 65 million (NDRRMC).

On 26 January 2020, PHIVOLCS lowered the Alert Level from 4 to 3 as the likelihood towards a hazardous eruption was reduced. On 14 February 2020, this was then lowered from Alert Level 3 to 2 to reflect an overall decreasing volcanic earthquake activity, and steam and gas emissions at the main crater of Taal. On 19 March 2020, the Alert Level was then lowered again from 2 to 1.

Despite the lowering of the Alert Level, PHIVOLCS continued to warn that the unrest had not completely stopped, with the persisting possibility of sudden steam-driven explosions, volcanic earthquakes, and ashfall, which could threaten surrounding areas. They continued to recommend that entry to Taal Volcano Island remain strictly prohibited, and advised Local Government Units (LGU) to continue to strengthen their preparedness, contingency plans and communication measures in the event of renewed volcanic activity. The lowering of the Alert Level allowed thousands of people that had been evacuated to return home, however many remain displaced and in need of resettlement due to the proximity of their places of origin to the volcano.

Taal Volcano eruptions came as authorities and partner organizations in the Philippines have been responding to public health emergencies (measles and polio outbreaks, MDRPH032; dengue outbreak, MDRPH033), earthquake (Mindanao, MDRPH036) and typhoons (Kammuri in November 2019, MDRPH037; Phanfone in December 2019, MDRPH038).

Since January 2020, the country, has also been wrestling with the continuing spread of COVID-19. On 12 March 2020, the Philippine government raised a Code Red sublevel 2 as recommended by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (ITAF-EID). This has imposed stringent measures on the country including measures of physical distancing, enhanced community quarantines, and limitation of movement within the entire country. On 16 March 2020, the entire Luzon was put on enhanced community quarantine until 13 April 2020, which was later extended until 15 May 2020. At the time of publication, a total of 10,343 cases and 685 deaths had been reported by the Department of Health (DOH) COVID-19 Case Tracker. There has been a prioritization of the Philippine government, and partner organizations including Philippine Red Cross (PRC) to prioritize the COVID-19 response. This has had implications on the PRC implementation of other ongoing operations, including the Taal Volcano response, with activities having to be rescheduled or redesigned to adapt to the current situation. A one and a half months extension of timeframe has been approved to accommodate the changes that have been required, and enable commitments to the affected population to be met.

About Zazithorn Ruengchinda

ScandAsia Journalist • Scandinavian Publishing Co., Ltd. • Bangkok Thailand

View all posts by Zazithorn Ruengchinda

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