Manila: Mia Caliwagan was at the scene in Talisay, Batangas, on the afternoon of January 12 when Taal Volcano erupted.

“My children were huddled together then the volcano erupted. We took refuge inside a neighbour’s horse stable during the eruption together with four other families. There were frequent earthquakes and heavy ash fall,” she recalls.

Talisay is one of two municipalities in the volcano island, the other being San Nicolas, which was also engulfed in ash fall from the eruption.

Caliwagan’s house and livelihood were destroyed, compelling her to leave for the nearby town of Tomas the next day on January 13.

“We were going down from the foot of the volcano when we saw government troops sent to rescue us,” she said.

Caliwagan and her family are now among the 1,200 evacuees currently taking shelter at the gymnasium of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) Batangas Campus.

Like the others in the 283 evacuation centres in the provinces of Batangas, Laguna, and Cavite, life has been difficult for the more than 15,047 families living in the temporary shelters.

Some in the other evacuation centres said had been days since they had taken a bath and there are long lines of people wanting to use the toilets.

Sanitation

Brigadier Gen. Marceliano Teofilo, head of Joint Task Group Taal said the military is now taking up the matter concerning sanitation facilities in the evacuation centres.

He said that while government had been able to provide portalets (portable toilets), those available are not enough for the long term use of thousands of people.

“Building latrines or comfort rooms is seen as the solution as this could be a health issue later on,” Teofilo said.

He added that the Philippine Air Force is set to help in constructing comfort rooms in some of the evacuation centres in Batangas.

Open businesses

Meanwhile in the highland resort city of Tagaytay in Cavite, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) allowed businesses that were forced to shut down operations due to the ash fall, to open.

“Only eight barangays [villages] in Tagaytay City are covered by its mandatory evacuation order and therefore businesses may reopen in other barangays,” Jonathan Malaya, Undersecretary of the interior department said in a statement.

The eight Tagaytay villages were identified as Bagong Tubig, Kaybagal South, Maharlika West, Sambong, San Jose, Silang Junction South, Maharlika East, and Tolentino East.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said these eight villages are susceptible to Base Surge and Volcanic Tsunami which is why they were included in the Mandatory Evacuation Order issued by the Department as early as Monday.