Philippines: Help for thousands left homeless by Mayon's explosions

News and Press Release
Originally published
by Omar Valdimarsson, Bangkok
Although the Philippines Institute of Vulcanology and Seismology has now lowered the alert around the Mount Mayon volcano on Luzon Island, further violent eruptions are considered imminent by the volcano which has erupted several times during the past few weeks. The most recent eruptions on 26 and 27 July displaced nearly 47,000 people - around 4,460 of them permanently.

Lying some 330 km south east of Manila, Mount Mayon is one of the Philippines' most active volcanos. It rises majestically 2,462 metres in a near-perfect conical shape from the landscape on Luzon island. There have been at least 45 eruptions recorded, the worst in 1814 when an entire town was buried, killing about 1,200 people.

Since the latest eruptions, Philippine Red Cross staff and volunteers have been working around the clock to provide assistance to the most needy - distributing food and non-food items, chiefly in two of the 27 camps for the displaced that have been set up in the area. Before, it had help in the evacuation of the 47,000 people. The local Albay/Legapzi Red Cross chapter is staffed by some of the Philippine National Red Cross' most experienced personnel and has some 5,000 volunteers, while the society in general played an important role in the extensive relief and rehabilitation operation for the victims of the 1991 Mount Pinatubo disaster.

Now, the Philippine Red Cross will concentrate on the needs of those who have been left homeless permanently. An appeal launched by the International Federation for 250,531 Swiss francs will support the Philippine Red Cross in its plans to provide food and other assistance to 957 families, totalling nearly 4,460 people for two months.

These families from the permanent danger zone, an area of 6 km radius around the volcano, are the only ones who won't be able to return to their land once the volcanic activity ceases. Mount Mayon's eruptions typically produce huge, thunderous clouds of flaming ashes and gases which whoosh down the sides of the mountain like avalanches and into the gullies on its southeastern flanks. These eruptions have resulted in a land that can no longer be worked productively. And with no homes or livestock either to go back to, the displaced will stay in evacuation camps until the government has identified permanent resettlement sites. Meanwhile, an assessment will be carried out by the Philippine Red Cross on the longer term needs of the permanently displaced.