Philippines struggles to keep evacuees away from volcano

Philippines struggles to keep evacuees away from volcano

Residents clean the roof of their house filled with ash spewed by Taal volcano
Residents clean the roof of their house filled with ash spewed by Taal volcano in Tagaytay city, south of Manila on Jan 14, 2020. (Photo: AFP/Ted Aljibe)

TALISAY CITY: Philippine authorities were struggling Wednesday (Jan 15) to keep thousands of evacuees from returning to homes in areas threatened by a feared massive eruption of Taal volcano.

Some 40,000 people have taken refuge in shelters since the volcano let loose a towering burst of ash and jets of lava from Sunday.

Police subsequently set up no-go zones and mandatory evacuations in at-risk towns around Taal, which is about 65km south of Manila.

READ: Tens of thousands face uncertainty as Philippine volcano spews lava

In pictures: Tens of thousands evacuate as erupting Philippine volcano Taal blankets towns in ash

But days later locals are losing patience and demanding access, even as the nation's seismological agency warns the volcano could unleash a more powerful eruption at any time.

Melvin Casilao said he and his neighbours in the town of Talisay need to feed their livestock, remove the thick ash from their roofs and pull their boats from the water.

Their community is on the shore of a vast lake that rings Taal, a popular tourist attraction despite being one of the nation's most active volcanoes.

"We want to visit our houses and clean the roofs. They are smothered in thick ash and they could collapse," Casilao told AFP.

READ: 'All in God's hands': Volcano evacuees hunker down in Philippines

READ: Filipino couple hold wedding amid 'light rain of ash' from Taal volcano

Houses in Laurel town have been covered with mud and ash from the Taal volcano in the Philippines
Houses in Laurel town have been covered with mud and ash from the Taal volcano in the Philippines. (Photo: AFP/Ted Aljibe)

Soldiers have been deployed at checkpoints in some areas, including Talisay, with police officer Sarah Jane Saballa saying: "It's for the safety of the residents."

People around Taal had to leave at a moment's notice, so many fled with just the clothes on their back.

As the volcano has calmed slightly in the past 24 hours and is spewing less ash, the temptation to return has grown.

READ: Tour operators defy evacuation order, risk lives to save horses on Taal volcano

READ: What's volcanic lightning? 5 things you need to know about volcanoes

taal volcano map, alert level jan 14

Seismologists have noted a string of earthquakes and fissures opening up in roads, indicating magma is still on the move and Taal remains very dangerous.

However, some areas have made concessions, allowing people in for short periods, despite the risks.

"These are residents appealing to us to allow them to feed their pets," said Gerry Malipon, San Nicolas town police chief.

"But after they've fed them, they will have to leave as soon as possible."

Source: AFP/zl

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