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Hopes for good harvest blow up with Mt. Bulusan

By Rey M. Nasol, Mar S. Arguelles, Joey Gois
Inquirer Southern Luzon
First Posted 00:43:00 02/23/2011

Filed Under: Agriculture, Nature, Disasters (general), Safety of Citizens

IROSIN, Sorsogon, Philippines?Farmers? hope for a good harvest in two Sorsogon towns has exploded with Mt. Bulusan.

Farmers living near the slopes of Mt. Bulusan now face uncertainty, just when they thought their farms have started to recover from last year?s series of ash fall from the volcano?s explosions.

?Even the lub lubi, (a native wild vegetable) was not spared by the ash fall,? said Asuprena Baloso, 83, of Barangay Cogon in Irosin.

Baloso?s was among 499 families from the villages of Cogon, Tinampo and Monbon, all along the slopes of Mt. Bulusan, who evacuated to the Gallanosa National High School.

Very little was spared from the ash. Banana plants were destroyed while the roofs of houses were damaged by a combination of volcanic ash and rainwater, she said.

Baloso said it would take more than a year for plants and crops to recover.

?Others who replanted after last year?s events are also in despair and are cash-strapped,? Baloso said. ?That is why we seek refuge at the evacuation center for free medicines and food.?

Baloso?s neighbor, Salvacion Endaya, 66, said she thought it was the end of the world.

?In my whole life, this was the first time that I heard such a loud rumble accompanied by a series of lightning and earthquakes,? she said. ?Then, after five minutes, there was total darkness.?

?It took us several hours to run from our homes to the evacuation center but there was also ash there,? said Endaya.

Along with the ash fall came sediments the size of rice grains, which residents said were not there in previous explosions, said Endaya.

Jose Balidoy, 63, of Barangay Monbon, said the men from Cogon, Tinampo and Monbon returned to their homes and stayed to salvage crops.

?I decided to stay here and keep watch,? said Balidoy. He said he has taken it upon himself to text his neighbors to warn them of further explosions.

At least 110,000 residents of Bulan, Irosin and Juban towns were affected by Monday?s ash fall, said Jose Lopez Jr., chief of the Sorsogon Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council on Tuesday.

The disaster council in Irosin allowed 1,500 evacuees to return to their homes on Tuesday after Mt. Bulusan showed signs of calmness for the past 24 hours, added Raffy Alejando, regional director of the Office of Civil Defense in Bicol.

Still, Lopez said local leaders were asking for face masks, medicines, relief goods and potable water, particularly for at least 79 in Irosin who suffered from respiratory infections, fever and asthma.

The Department of Public Works and Highways and Bureau of Fire Protection said the Maharlika Highway in Irosin and Bulan were now passable after they were cleared of ash.

Classes have also resumed in public and private elementary and secondary schools in the affected towns in Sorgoson and in Masbate City, where ash fall was also recorded.

Mt. Bulusan, 45 kilometers from Sorsogon City, was rocked by 16 volcanic quakes, including the massive 3-km high ash explosion recorded at 9:12 a.m. that lasted for 19 minutes, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said in a bulletin on Tuesday.

The explosion dumped up to 5 mm of ash in Irosin and 3 mm in Bulan.

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