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Residents are evacuated to a local school as the Taal volcano continues to erupt in Santo Tomas, Batangas, southern Philippines, Monday January 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Gerrard Carreon) Image Credit: AP

Manila: People affected by ash fall from the Taal Volcano have been advised to improvise amid the shortage of face masks.

Health Assistant Secretary Maria Laxamana, during a press briefing on Tuesday at the presidential palace in Manila, said it is important that affected people be able to breathe and the only way to do this is protect their nose and mouth from the ash that has blanketed areas close to Taal.

Face masks have been a scarce and valuable commodity since the Taal eruption, and some traders have been reported to be hoarding N95 face masks, which caused its price to spike.

These type of face masks were recommended for people living and working in affected areas, such as those in the provinces of Batangas, Laguna and Cavite.

Laxamana said given that N95 face masks are in short supply, affected people will have to make do with what they have to protect themselves from the harmful effects of the sulphur-laden ash.

Aside from clean cloths, he said people can cover their nose and mouth with diapers doused in a small amount of water.


On Monday, Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana elicited laughter from the audience during a press briefing when he suggested that people who don’t have access to face masks can cover their mouths and nose with brassieres or underwear.

Laxamana suggested the same. “Another creative way is using bra and panty,” she said.

Inhaling ash could lead to a cough and difficulty breathing. It could also irritate the eyes, the Department of Health said.

Laxamana said these will do while the Department of Health is rushing the delivery of N95 face masks and other items to the affected areas.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said they have sent drugs, medicines such as eye drops and asthma medication, medical supplies including N95 and surgical face masks, collapsible water containers and jerry cans, water purification tablets and hygiene kits to the Cavite-Batangas-Rizal-Laguna-Quezon region as well as the National Capital Region (NCR). However, distribution of these items will take a little more time.

Aside from humans, the ash fall is also affecting animals.

Reports said hundreds of cats, dogs, cattle and other livestock as well as some 400 horses have been trapped in the immediate area of the ash fall in Batangas.

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals Asia said their rescuers are in the evacuation zone surrounding the Taal Lake giving food, water, and veterinary care to dogs and cats who have been abandoned or taken to evacuation centres.