Concern is mounting for the safety of children and families in Batangas as the Taal Volcano was raised to Alert Level 3 following a phreatomagmatic eruption on July 1, 2021 which experts warned could be followed by further, more dangerous eruptions.
Some barangays in Agoncillo and Laurel –towns which are considered as high-risk areas- have undergone forced evacuation already . More than 7,000 residents in Laurel and nearly 14,500 people from Agoncillo are now affected.
In addition, communities around the Taal Lake are advised to evacuate, take precautionary measures, and remain vigilant for possible hazards and volcanic tsunami according to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS).
Authorities are evacuating thousands of people from their homes to safer areas. But as the country continues to grapple with a second wave of COVID-19, Save the Children warned that another eruption will also increase the risk of the virus spreading.
Jerome Balinton, Humanitarian Manager at Save the Children in the Philippines, said:
“If the volcano erupts again, it could be deadly. Thousands of families and children have been forced to evacuate their homes and are temporarily sheltered at evacuation centers. We are also concerned that, amidst the chaos of the evacuations, families will be unable to follow social distancing guidelines and are at risk of being infected with the virus. There are 16 active cases of COVID-19 reported in Agoncillo and Laurel. If the evacuation of families becomes overwhelming, it may contribute to the spread of the virus.
With the country still reeling from the fallout of COVID-19, a life-threatening volcanic eruption is the last thing these areas need. Many families have already lost their homes and their livelihoods because of the pandemic. Disasters like this exacerbate their present condition and coping with life struggles.”
Atty. Albert Muyot, Chief Executive Officer at Save the Children in the Philippines, said:
“We are appealing to the local government units to ensure the safety and protection of children and their families during this crisis, as well as to develop their Comprehensive Emergency Program for Children (CEPC) to address the safety, protection, participation, and development of all children when emergencies or disasters strike.
Children’s rights to protection from all forms of harm, to be with their families at all times, to remain healthy, and to continue learning amidst the pandemic and emergencies such as the latest Taal Volcano eruption, should always be realized.”
Save the Children’s humanitarian teams are on stand by and ready to respond, and provide displaced families with temporary shelters and other essentials, as needed.