Capitol, LGUs prepare as alert level raised to ‘moderate unrest’

Kanlaon Volcano closely monitored

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Kanlaon Volcano closely monitored

Thursday, November 16, 2017

BACOLOD. A photo of Mount Kanlaon taken from Barangay Masulog in Canlaon City, Negros Oriental in March this year while the active volcano was still under Alert Level 1 status. (SunStar Bacolod file photo)

THE alert status of Mount Kanlaon in Negros Island was raised from Alert Level 1 to Alert Level 2 Wednesday, but there was no evacuation among the residents in the two provinces yet.

Under Alert Level 2, the active volcano is undergoing a moderate level of unrest, according to Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), adding there is probable intrusion of magma at depth which may or may not lead to a magmatic eruption.

Phivolcs, in its advisory Wednesday, November 15, said it has raised the alert level following the recorded 279 volcanic earthquakes in the past 24 hours.

Since August 18, the number of volcanic earthquakes detected per day has continued to increase, the agency said.

“There has been no visible degassing or steaming from the active vent this year, although increased unrest could possibly develop into steam-driven or phreatic eruptions at the summit,” the advisory said.

Phivolcs reminded the local government units and the public that entry into the four-kilometer radius permanent danger zone is strictly prohibited due to further possibilities of sudden and hazardous steam-driven or phreatic eruptions.

Civil aviation authorities must also advise pilots to avoid flying close to the volcano’s summit as ejecta from any sudden phreatic eruption can be hazardous to aircraft, it added.

Mount Kanlaon is the highest point in the Visayas at 2,465 meters (8,087 feet) above sea level. It straddles the provinces of Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental.

‘Closely monitored’

Benjamin Tanatan, Phivolcs science research analyst based in Canlaon City, Negros Oriental, said they are closely monitoring the activity of the active volcano.

He said residents were already informed of the situation, but no evacuation was recommended yet.

The alert level was raised due to the volcanic earthquakes, meaning “there is something happening in the magma chamber of Mount Kanlaon.”

If the volcanic earthquakes increase, “it’s possible it will erupt, but it’s possible also that it will not,” he added.

Canlaon City Mayor Jimmy Clerigo said the residents within the danger zone were already told to be prepared in case the situation worsens.

“Everything is in place (for any eventuality). Our evacuation center is also ready,” the mayor said.

He added their Incident Command Center has also been activated.
The mayor said they are closely coordinating with Phivolcs on the situation.

In Bago City, Negros Occidental, the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (CDRRMC) through its Pre-Disaster Risk Assessment Core Group conducted a meeting Wednesday afternoon to discuss the volcano’s moderate level of unrest, based on its Facebook post.

Councilor Jom Somcio, chair of disaster risk reduction and management committee, presided on behalf chairperson, Mayor Nicholas Yulo.

The group will present the action plan in today’s fourth quarter CDRRMC meeting.

In La Castellana town, the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and anagement Office (MDRRMO) reminded its residents in a Facebook post to keep safe amid the volcano’s moderate level of unrest.

The MDRRMO also warned the public that “entry to five-kilometer danger zone is strictly prohibited.”

Eruption to affect Negros Occidental

Zeaphard Gerhart Caelian, head of Negros Occidental Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Division, said the province will be affected should the volcano erupt.

He said the contingency plan is in place.

“For Alert Level 2, our focus is preparedness. It may or may not (erupt),” he added.

To ensure that all local government units (LGUs) in Negros Occidental are prepared, a Response Committee Plan meeting will be held today “to check the contingency plan and inform the national government agencies,” including the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police, and Philippine Coast Guard, about the situation, he said.

“We will lay down the scenario and our preparations. We will also check their preparations and see how prepared they are," Caelian said.

He said there's no order of evacuation in danger zones.

“We're going to evacuate if it's already in Alert Level 3,” he added.

Caelian pointed out that the public should be ready in case there is evacuation especially in the dangers zones.

“The public should be alert. I can’t say they should not be alarmed because there's an alert level, but this is not the time to panic as it may or may not happen," he said.

He said every household should prepare survival kits like food, water, and radio in case they need to leave the village.

He added that preparation should be coupled with prayers.

Probable areas identified

Caelian identified the "most probable areas" in the province that will be affected by the volcanic eruption.

"This is only based on the simulation we made, they may or may not be affected," he added.

Based on the hazard maps, its effects like lava flow, pyroclastic materials, and lahar will hit Negros Occidental, he said.

Directly affected, which is under the four-kilometer danger zone, are the cities of San Carlos, Bago, and La Carlota and the towns of Murcia, La Castellana, Moises Padilla and Salvador Benedicto, Caelian said.

If based on the pathway of lahar, localities that will be affected include the cities of San Carlos, Bago, La Carlota and Himamaylan and the towns of Pontevedra, Pulupandan, San Enrique, Valladolid, Hinigaran, Binalbagan, La Castellana, Moises Padilla and Isabela, he said.

Its effects vary, depending on the scenario, he added.

Caelian said that the Capitol’s Emergency Operations Center is already activated, adding that it will be manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to monitor the volcanic activities and other eventualities.

The Office of Civil Defense in Negros had earlier prepared a comprehensive contingency plan for Mount Kanlaon.

Data showed that not less than 11,000 residents from five villages of Canlaon City may be affected if the volcano’s abnormalities will worsen.

If the volcano’s status will be raised to Alert Level 3, about 20,000 individuals from five villages of La Castellana will be affected.

If Alert Level 4, 2,500 households from five villages in La Carlota City; more than 500 households from two villages in Bago City; and one village in Murcia town will be affected, while two villages in San Carlos City will also be hit if Alert Level 5.

Published in the SunStar Bacolod newspaper on November 16, 2017.

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