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Residents of Talisay Town in Batangas arrive at the Sto Tomas Central School after being evacuated from the heavy ashfall and debris from the Taal Volcano eruption on Monday. Image Credit: AP

Manila: Face masks used to protect people from particles and gases from Taal Volcano eruption are flying fast off the shelves as businesses take advantage of the huge demand for the item.

Taal, the world’s smallest volcano located just a little more than 100 kilometres south of Manila, erupted on Sunday afternoon after months of low intensity volcanic activity.

It ejected steam along with sulphuric ash and other debris several inches deep in some parts of Batangas, Laguna, Cavite and other nearby areas. Ash fell as far away as the Tarlac province more than 250 kilometres north.

According to the Department of Health (DOH), effects of the ash fall range from irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, coughing, bronchitis-like illness, discomfort while breathing, and minor skin problems and irritation.

Surgical masks were readily available for immediate protection but the health department declared they were not good enough to filter the minute airborne particles ejected by the eruption.

Field day

Businessmen had a field day taking advantage of the peoples’ need as some of those affected tried to improvise with anything to keep their nose and faces covered.

According to reports, the price of N95 face mask which is adequate in protecting against the ash fall and can be bought from stores and pharmacies, ranged between P25 (Dhs1.81) to P40 (Dhs 2.90) before the eruption increased it several fold to between P200 (Dh14.51) to P250 (Dh18.40) by Sunday.

Even in Metro Manila, which is located some distance from the area of eruption, prices of masks had gone up.

Responding to profiteering reports, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) on Monday deployed price monitoring teams to the affected areas.

“Those found to have unreasonably increased their prices for gas masks, face masks and other similar items, an act that amounts to profiteering, shall be dealt with to the fullest extent of the law,” DTI said.

According to Senator Koko, Pimentel reports on profiteering constitute violations of country’s The Price Act.

Voluntary help

But while the unscrupulous were quick to take advantage of the peoples’ misery, there were those who voluntarily gave help.

Some residents in safer areas of Batangas and Cavite took out their water hoses and doused passing ash-covered motor vehicles with water so the motorists can see the road clearly.

Angel Efryl Castillo, whose family owned an eatery in Bauan, said in a Facebook post that they are handing out food to passing people coming from the severely affected areas.

“Thank you also for those kind enough to contribute raw meat, soft drinks and water (that we are giving away),” she said.