Philippines volcano: Red Cross prepares for the worst

Topics: Asia, Emergencies and Disasters Worldwide
January 14, 2020


Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated after Taal volcano in Batangas, the Philippines, began spewing ash on January 12 and lava in the early hours of January 13. 

The Philippines Institute for Volcanology and Seismology raised the volcano’s alert level to four out of a maximum of five, prompting precautionary evacuations of people living in a danger zone.  

Almost 25,000 people are now in more than 120 evacuation centres. More than 450,000 people live within the 14-kilometre danger zone and could be displaced by a hazardous eruption, which is possible within hours or days. 

The Philippines Red Cross has been providing services and emergency items to people in evacuation centres through deploying ambulances, giving out dust masks, providing hot meals, water, sanitation and hygiene items, and offering emotional support and child-friendly spaces. 

Acting Head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) Country Office, Patrick Elliott said: 

“This is an uneasy time for thousands of people living near Taal volcano. Almost 25,000 people have managed to evacuate very quickly but more are at risk if the activity escalates into a major eruption.” 

Prepared for the worst 

The Philippines Red Cross is helping people evacuate but it is not an easy task. Ashfall, rain, slippery roads, low visibility and a shortage of personal protective equipment are slowing down evacuations.  

Responders are preparing for the worst. Red Cross teams are on standby, gearing up to meet the immediate needs of impacted people. Possible future help could include emergency health and assistance for people in evacuation centers, including emotional support, child-friendly spaces, hot meals, emergency items, water and sanitation.    

The volcano is located on an island in the middle of the Taal lake and the authorities also warned of a possible volcanic tsunami, trigged by falling debris after an eruption, pushing the water and generating waves. 

The ash fall has halted flights to and from Ninoy Aquino International and Clark International airports. The Department of Health advised people to stay indoors and to take necessary precautions and protection against fine volcanic ash, which has a sulfurous smell and could cause irritation and breathing problems.  

Currently, the Canadian Red Cross is monitoring the situation very closely and is ready to respond as needed. 

Canadians wishing to support Red Cross response to emergencies and sudden natural disasters such as the Taal volcano can donate to our International Disaster Relief Fund. Donations will be used to support the ongoing efforts of the Canadian Red Cross and our ability to respond within hours of a disaster, anywhere in the world.

Photo: Philippine Red Cross / IFRC