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Concern over children raised as Taal volcano continues to emit sulfur dioxide gas

Several families in the towns of Agoncillo and Laurel, which are considered “high-risk areas,” have already been evacuated

A child rights organization has raised concern for the safety of children and families in the province of Batangas as Philippine authorities warned of the imminent eruption of Taal volcano.

Several families in the towns of Agoncillo and Laurel, which are considered “high-risk areas,” have already been evacuated.

Reports said more than 7,000 residents in Laurel town and nearly 14,500 people from Agoncillo are already affected by sulfur dioxide emissions from the volcano.

“If the volcano erupts again, it could be deadly,” said Jerome Balinton, humanitarian manager at Save the Children in the Philippines.

He said thousands of families and children who have been forced to evacuate their homes are already temporarily sheltered in evacuation centers.

“We are also concerned that, amid the chaos of the evacuations, families will be unable to follow social distancing guidelines and are at risk of being infected with [COVID-19],” said Balinton.

At least 16 active cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Agoncillo and Laurel towns.

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“If the evacuation of families becomes overwhelming, it may contribute to the spread of the virus,” warned Balinton.

“With the country still reeling from the fallout of COVID-19, a life-threatening volcanic eruption is the last thing these areas need,” he said.

Many families in the province of Batangas lost their homes and their livelihoods after Taal volcano erupted in January last year, covering several towns with ashes and sand.

Lawyer Albert Muyot, chief executive officer at Save the Children in the Philippines, appealed to local government units in the area “to ensure the safety and protection of children and their families.”

He said Save the Children’s humanitarian teams are on stand by and ready to respond, and provide displaced families with temporary shelters and other essentials, as needed.

Residents watch as Taal volcano releases ash and smoke during an eruption in Tagaytay, Cavite province south of Manila, Philippines on Monday. Jan. 13, 2020. (File photo by Basilio Sepe)

The Archdiocese of Lipa has already announced that it is opening its churches and schools to provide shelter to displaced families.

The archdiocese also appealed for more N95 masks as the volcano continues to emit high levels of sulfur dioxide.

The Lipa Archdiocesan Social Action Commission said it has already propositioned and stockpiled an initial 5,000 pieces of N95 masks but more supplies are needed.

Hundreds of families have already been moved from their homes within the seven-kilometer danger zone after the volcano continues to be restive.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology recorded an “anomalously high” sulfur dioxide gas emission from the volcano on Sunday, averaging at 22,626 tons per day — “the highest ever recorded in Taal.”

The institute said the parameters may indicate that an eruption similar to the July 1 event may occur “anytime soon.”

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