Canlaon official laments Phivolcs’ ‘silence’

SunStar Local News
SunStar Local News

THREE days after Mount Kanlaon erupted in Negros Island, an official of Canlaon City expressed his disappointment in the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) due to the agency’s lack of coordination.

Dr. Elmer Empiales, the City’s public information officer, told SunStar Cebu on Wednesday, June 5, 2024, that no representative from the Phivolcs observatory deck informed them about the “imminent eruption.”

He said that Phivolcs has an observatory deck in the city to monitor the activities of the active volcano. However, they received no word from the facility either before or after the eruption, he said.

Mt. Kanlaon had a six-minute phreatic eruption on Monday night, June 3, 2024, prompting the local government unit (LGU) to place the city under a state of calamity.

According to the Phivolcs website, “phreatic eruptions are steam-driven explosions that occur when water beneath the ground or on the surface is heated by magma, lava, hot rocks, or new volcanic deposits.”

Empiales said that it would have helped in their decision-making, particularly on the evacuation of residents living near the danger zone, if they had updates on what was going on at Mount Kanlaon.

He said the LGU received a report from a cold spring resort management that, before the eruption, the spring released an unusual substance with a foul smell.

He said that might have been an indication that something unusual was happening inside the volcano.

He said Phivolcs had assigned an expert in the city to monitor volcanic activities and give constant updates, but the expert retired and has not been replaced.

Empiales said they will urge Philvolcs to train their personnel, particularly members of the disaster-response team, to identify signs of imminent eruption or unusual activities in the volcano.

Everything was back to normal on Wednesday after the City lifted the suspension of work order for public and private firms issued by Mayor Jose Chubasco Cardenas on Tuesday, June 4.

Empiales said their basis was the information provided by the Phivolcs website and their observation that the volcano had calmed down.

However, he said that based on the Phivolcs website, the volcano is still under alert level 2.

He warned the public not to go near the four-kilometer permanent danger zone.

As of Wednesday, Phivolcs reported 53 volcanic earthquakes and 4,113 tons of sulfur dioxide released since Tuesday.

For health-related concerns, Empiales said they are advising the public to stay at home, especially the elderly and persons with disability.

There was no report of respiratory illness related to the plume released by the volcano, he said. Most of the medical emergencies that the LGU attended were injuries sustain after the eruption and during the evacuation.

He said the City, with the help of the Negros Oriental Provincial Government and the National Government distributed food packs and financial assistance to some residents who have been evacuated and are staying in evacuation centers.

Effects on Cebu

Across the Tañon Strait in Cebu, several residents of Toledo City reported experiencing sore throat and cough since the volcano erupted.

Shaine Arrojo, 23, a resident living near the port area of Sitio Baybay 1, Barangay Poblacion, told SunStar Cebu via Messenger on Wednesday that she has been coughing and feeling a weird itchiness in her throat.

“Katol akong tutunlan na murag kasukaon ig ubo,” said Arrojo. (My throat itches. When I cough, I feel like vomiting.)

Another resident from Barangay Poblacion, who wants to remain anonymous, had the same experience and opted to wear a face mask for safety measures.

Meanwhile, Pinamungajan Mayor Jessica Baricuatro told SunStar Cebu in a phone interview that their Local Risk Reduction & Management Council is “continuously monitoring the situation,” adding that they have not received any health reports from the Municipal Health Office.

Baricuatro said their situation is normal, although a thick fog has hidden the volcano which is usually visible from the western shores of Cebu.

“We hope and pray that it will stay this way. Normally, Kanlaon is visible from here, but lately it has been out of sight,” she said in a mix of English and Cebuano.

SunStar Cebu tried to reach out to other municipalities in the southwestern part of Cebu Province, but to no avail. / EHP WITH DPC

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