Taal volcano turns neighboring communities into ghost towns

by Jeff Canoy, ABS-CBN News

They’re not quite sure where they’re going or how to get there.

But in the middle of roads where not much is visible because of ash deposits — one thing’s clear for residents of Lemery town in southern Luzon.

They can’t stay here with the continued threat of a restive Taal volcano.

Teresita Caag and her grandchildren found themselves at the municipal hall, where many residents trooped in hopes of finding a ride out of Lemery.

Local officials estimate that more than 8,000 residents have left through the buses and trucks that both the government and the private sector provided for evacuation.

But they don’t quite have the total number of residents who fled.

There are many more who used their own vehicles or hitched a ride along the highway.

“Kailangan ho namin iligtas ang aming mga mamamayan, ang mga sarili nila. Ang kailangan lang ho sumunod sila kung san man sila dadalhin. Meron hong pakain ang mswd, pamahalaan namin, pero binigay namin doon sa mga nagsilikas, nagpadala po kami. Yung nandito, konti lang ang pagkain,” said Vice Mayor Geraldin Ornales.

Lemery town is considered a high-risk area because of its proximity to the volcano — which is why in less than 24 hours since Taal spewed steam and ash, the town of 90,000 people turned into a virtual ghost town.

Residents also fled the municipality of Laurel.

Most of them had a hard time getting transportation.

Some fled to higher ground for fear the volcanic quakes might trigger huge waves.

Local officials lament they do not have enough supplies for all affected residents.

The municipality of Agoncillo buried under thick ash making it difficult for residents to evacuate.

By Monday morning it had also turned into a virtual ghost town, as remaining residents decided to leave.

Batangas has already declared a state of calamity, and there’s no immediate relief in sight, with disaster officials bracing for a further escalation.

“The worst-case scenario is the volcano will blow up like Pinatubo. Remember Pinatubo? Yung buong bundok nawala eh. That’s what we are fearing kung biglang umangat yung island, ibuga niya lahat. Apektado yung buong paligid niya, babagsakan ng debris. Hopefully hindi mangyari yun but you can never predict the actions of these volcanoes,” said PH Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.

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