Philippines/Mt. Mayon: Fears of disease and landslides as rain hits

News and Press Release
Originally published
By Sheralyn Tanjutco
Albay Province, Philippines (June 27, 2001) -- The rainy season has started. For some, it is a blessing after the hot and dry season. But for the families displaced by the recent eruption of Mount Mayon in Albay province, it means a prolonged stay in the evacuation centers.

"It is not the ash fall that we are worried about. It's the lahar", says Winifredo Nacor, a village leader in Barangay (village) Tumpa, one of the villages within the six-kilometer permanent danger zone.

Lahar is described as hazardous pyroclastic flows which come from the slopes of the volcano. This phenomenon devastated several towns in the northern provinces when Mount Pinatubo erupted in 1991.

"When the rain comes, the fresh mud on the gulleys will loosen the boulders and they will come tumbling down to our villages", laments Nacor. "Not only our properties will be destroyed but our livelihood as well."

Nacor and the other villagers have vegetable farms for their income. The eruption has caused them to abandon these farms and flee their villages. The evacuees have to rely on the goods distributed by the local government units and private organizations for their daily sustenance.

"We expect to stay here (evacuation center) for more than a month", Nacor adds.

As of press time, the number of families staying in 30 evacuation centers has increased to 8,897 (more than 43,000) individuals). The Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office anticipates the number to increase again within the week because of continuous rainfall in the province.

"We fear that as rains continue to fall, outbreak of diseases and upper respiratory illnesses would occur", says Yollie Guanzon, Provincial Social Welfare and Development Officer. She also reported that most evacuation centers have become crowded and cramped as more families left their homes. If not resolved, these centers may be prone to sanitation and health problems, she added.

World Vision's Mayon Relief Operation 2001 will cover four municipalities, namely: Camalig, Ligao, Tabaco and Sto. Domingo. A total of 1,704 families will each receive relief goods consisting of rice, noodles, dried fish, water container with water, sleeping mats, sugar, laundry soap and biscuits for children.