By BENNIE A. RECEBIDO
SORSOGON CITY – Mt. Bulusan has shown restiveness anew at 9:12 a.m. on Feb. 21 after an ash explosion reaching as high as 3 kilometers, the highest so far since its activities in Nov 6, last year.
Philippine Volcanology and Seismology’s (Phivolcs) report said that this event was recorded as explosion type earthquake lasting for about nineteen minutes and was accompanied by a rumbling sound, which was heard up to ten kilometers away in the town of Juban, Sorsogon.
The explosion produced a grayish ash column above the summit before drifting to the southwest affecting the towns of Irosin, Bulan and part of Juban, Casiguran and Masbate province.
“We were in the middle of the sea along Ticao Island when suddenly the skies darkened affecting the status of our visibility, I even made use of a compass so as not to be misled of our route,” said fastcraft captain Florencio Templor who ferries passengers from Pilar – Masbate and vice versa.
Local residents in Irosin reported through text messages that the ash column darkened the skies in some villages there paralyzing school activities, transportation and other outdoor activities due to zero visibility.
Marvin Endaya, councilor of Brgy Cogon in Irosin, said they were surprised by the sudden volcanic explosion, but at once managed the evacuation specifically of vulnerable residents and of the school children who by that time were in schools already. “Since Cogon is the nearest barangay to the 4-km Permanent Danger Zone declared by Phivolcs, automatically our residents here know already what to do during situations like this.
That’s why, by the time the evacuation service arrived, they were all ready,” he said.
“When we noticed that Mt. Bulusan spewed ashes again, we right away secured our children and as it subsided, we suspended classes and turned over the children to their respective families and prepared the classrooms for the evacuation,” saidGallanosa High School head Flordeliza Gile.
Sorsogon I Electric Cooperative (SORECO I) substation 13 covering Bulan and Matnog towns was engulfed by thick ash prompting SORECO I to issue an advisory shutting-off power supply, but it was also immediately restored after the clearing.
Members of the local Disaster Risk Reduction Management Councils (DRRMC) were alerted immediately and deployed personnel to help evacuate residents affected by the ash falls particularly of Brgy. Cogon, Mombon, Tinampo and Bolos in Irosin and PutingSapa in Juban to safer grounds.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) Irosin conducted check points and advised motorists to take extra caution due to ash falls.
“Major Gen. RaffyPabustan sent five M35 trucks and at 9:30 in the morning on Monday, Feb. 21, evacuated 2,000 residents from Juban, Irosin and Bulan.
Some 300 families were immediately brought by the 49IB men to Gallanosa High School inIrosin and 100 from Brgy. Puting Sapa in Juban,” said. Maj. Harold Cabunoc of 9ID Philippine Army.
AFP trucks and personnel remain on standy-by round the clock to respond to possible needs in the next hours.
All residents from PutingSapa, Juban who were evacuated to Brgy Cogon were already allowed to go home before it got dark. This, after the area were jointly cleared by members of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), barangay-LGU and residents themselves.
As of 8:00 p.m. of Feb. 21, Irosin Municipal Social Welfare and Development Officer Ghie Martinez said that 117 families with 499 persons were still advised to stay at the Gallanosa High School and to wait until such time the Municipal DRRMC instructs them to go home. Eight classrooms were utilized as evacuation centers.
Bulan Municipal Administrator Luis De Castro also reported that almost 85 percent of their area of responsibilty was affected by the ash fall. He said, in the past volcanic explosions, the town was not affected as intense as this, so they were off guarded.
“Mayor Helen De Castro right away asked for assistance especially in terms of dust masks, oxygen tanks and portable water pumps especially that some 18 students were recorded to have fainted due to suffocation. However, no evacuees were noted in Bulan,” he said.
Initial report of the Provincial DRRMC through ManroJaycobared that aside from Bulan, Mt. Bulusan’s recent explosion has affected seventeen barangays in Irosin and two in Juban town. The municipality of Bulusan was not affected.
Amy Deniega of the Sorsogon Provincial Management Office (SPMO) said that the office of Sorsogon Gov. Raul Lee is set to send face masks, nebulizer, cough syrup and vitamins to the affected areas.
Irosin District Hospital is also on white code alert particularly that six patients were confined due to asthma as triggered by the volcanic explosion.
“All of the patients complained of respiratory problems. The youngest of the six is thirteen while the rest are all adult patients. So far, they are all stable, in fact, I had cleared one patient and already allowed him to go home while the rest are still under observation, but as soon as cleared they will also be allowed to go home,” said Dr. Ludovic Tan, chief, Irosin District Hospital.
Affected areas were also visited in the afternoon of the same day by representatives from the Office of the Civil Defense (OCD) Bicol to conduct assessment of the extent of damages.
Meanwhile, Phivolcs said that similar explosions are expected as Mt. Bulusan remains to be in Alert Level 1 status.