Philippines: Salesian missionaries begin humanitarian relief work to help those affected by Mount Mayon volcano eruption
(MissionNewswire) Salesian missionaries at Don Bosco Vocational Training Center within the Salesian Legazpi community have already begun relief efforts to aid those affected by the Mount Mayon volcano that has been spewing fire and ash for the last two weeks. The center, which is about 24 km away from the volcano, is out of the danger zone. It is also located 70 meters above sea level on what’s considered the safe side of the volcano with the current wind direction, making it currently one of the safer areas in the northeastern Albay province. Albay officials declared the entire province of more than 1.3 million people under a state of emergency two weeks ago to allow quicker release of disaster funds.
More than 80,000 villagers in the Albay province have already fled to dozens of schools that have been turned into emergency shelters. A lack of food and bathroom facilities is already making the situation on the ground challenging. According to a Reuters article, state volcanologists have indicated that residents in the area are also at risk from huge debris that could be swept away by recent heavy rains.
Salesian missionaries living and working in the area have begun helping those who are evacuating and in need of assistance. Missionaries have noted that those most affected by the eruption are farmers who live and work within the volcano’s six-kilometer radius permanent danger zone. They stated, “Their lives are disrupted and their means of livelihood suddenly became inaccessible, that is why they need all the help we could give.”
Bishop Joel Baylon of Legazpi issued a letter to parishioners in his diocese to “open your homes once again and welcome some of our brothers and sisters. If for whatever reason this is not possible, can we at least consider allowing those to use our bathrooms?”
Salesian missionaries have indicated that the most 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, including pregnant and lactating mothers, persons with disabilities and the elderly. The government’s National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council has also announced that it has already prepared relief goods for the displaced population.
“Because Salesian missionaries live in the communities where they work, they are among the first to respond when disasters strike,” says Father Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “They are also well experienced in handling the logistics of a humanitarian crisis and ensuring that relief supplies are accessed by those who need it most.”
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 Feb. 1, 1814, burying the town of Cagsawa and killing at least 1,200 people. The volcano has so far ejected 6.2 million cubic meters of volcanic materials including molten rocks, with sulfur dioxide gas emission at an average of 2,466 tons per day.