Albay evacuees outside of Mayon’s danger zone refuse to leave shelters
LEGAZPI CITY, Albay, Philippines — Residents who evacuated in the towns of Sto. Domingo and Guinobatan in Albay have refused to return to their houses despite being told by their town officials that those living outside the 6-kilometer permanent danger zone (PDZ) of the restive Mayon Volcano could already leave the shelters.
Some Sto. Domingo evacuees said they preferred staying at shelters and “hut city” even if they live outside the PDZ since they believe it was safer that way.
Rose Milarpes, 29, said they would still stay inside the nipa hut they built at Sitio Bical in Barangay Salvacion of Sto. Domingo to protect her five children from the possible threat of an eruption.
“We will stay here at Bical because I have a 3-month-old baby. If (Mayon) erupts, we can’t easily escape because my husband is in Manila. We’re safe here,” Milarpes said in a phone interview on Tuesday.
Milarpes, her children, and mother left Zone 3 of Barangay Lidong on June 12 out of fear that pyroclastic materials and ashfall would reach their area even if it was already outside of the PDZ.
In an advisory on Tuesday, Sto. Domingo Mayor Joseling Aguas Jr. ordered the village officials of Lidong, Fidel Surtida, Sta. Misericordia and San Fernando to allow the evacuees to return home starting on Wednesday after Albay Gov. Edcel Greco Lagman urged them to decamp the evacuees who were living in the 7-km to 8-km extended danger zone.
Only those residing within the 6-km PDZ were told not to enter the area as ashfall, lava flow, and pyroclastic density currents could occur anytime.
“Should the evacuees prefer to stay at the evacuation camps or areas for fear [of a possible eruption], they should inform the respective officials for proper coordination,” Aguas said in the advisory.
Some of the town’s residents built nipa huts in the villages of Salvacion, Calayucay, and San Andres to avoid the crowded evacuation centers in schools.
In his letter to Aguas and Guinobatan Mayor Paul Chino Garcia on Monday, Lagman said the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) only recommended evacuation of the residents within the 6-km PDZ.
Lagman said in a social media post on Tuesday that he would be meeting with local officials to ask for justification for “diverting with the evacuation protocols” indicated in the provincial disaster risk reduction and management advisory released on June 8.
“It is clear without any debate or doubt that during alert level 3, the jurisdiction of the mayors is to evacuate their residents who are inside the 6-km PDZ. Again, if alert level 3, [the evacuation is] within 6-km only,” Lagman said.
About 1,688 families (5,473 people) in Sto. Domingo and 377 families (2,972 people) in Guinobatan were evacuated from the 7-km to 8-km extended danger zone, comprising about 44 percent of the total evacuees.
Joy Maravillas, head of the Guinobatan municipal disaster risk reduction and management office, said by phone on Tuesday that village officials in Maninila, Tandarora, and Muladbucad Grande would not allow the evacuated 377 families to return home as they were living close to two big gullies of the volcano.
Many of the residents living within the extended danger zones reported they were affected by ashfall, heard the rumblings of the volcano, and smelled the pungent sulfuric fumes emitted by Mayon.
Only some evacuees in Guinobatan, mostly the elderly, would like to return to their homes due to the inconvenience experienced while living in evacuation centers.
“For 11 days now, I experienced sleepless nights [because] the children were noisy, and worst of all, it is very hot, so it would be best to go home,” Sergia Otilla, 84, a resident of Maninila village, said in an interview Tuesday.
Meanwhile, some displaced farmers from Barangay Mi-isi in Daraga town were allowed to go back to their farms within the boundaries of the PDZ on Monday to harvest their vegetables. The farmers were given permits to visit their farms but were told to go back to their evacuation centers in Barangay Anislag of the town after harvesting their crops.
The Daraga police and personnel from the municipal agricultural services office assisted them on their harvest.
Helen Salvadora, 45, said they would still have to decide if it would be wise to go home since the ashfall from Mayon has reached their area at Zone 1 in Barangay Lidong, Sto. Domingo, during the past weeks, triggering her asthma and creating panic in their household.