Residents banned from returning to homes over Taal eruption fears
TANAUAN, THE PHILIPPINES: Officials in the Philippines ordered a crackdown yesterday on people being allowed daily visits to the homes they fled after the Taal volcano erupted, citing threats it could still explode at any time.
Over 110,000 people have taken refuge in evacuation centres since Taal burst into life a week ago, but many hard-hit towns have permitted people in to fetch items, feed livestock and clean up their houses.
"We are directing (civil defence officers)... not to allow anyone to enter the danger zone," said Mr Epimaco Densing, undersecretary for the Department of the Interior and Local Government.
"It is dangerous, that is why we have imposed a lockdown."
The volcano shot ash 15km high in the Jan 12 eruption, which crushed scores of homes and killed livestock and crops.
However, seismologists have warned the volcano could imminently unleash a much bigger blast, putting at risk the lives of anyone in the 14km radius "danger zone" that surrounds it.
"The threat remains. It has not waned," said Dr Renato Solidum, head of the Philippines' seismological agency.
He said the volcano might be spewing less ash than it was a few days ago, but the magma that would fuel a big eruption is still coursing towards it.
Until experts deem the threat has passed, the evacuees will need the shelters spread across some 400 sites that range from school campuses to covered basketball courts.
The authorities say they have so far been able to provide fundamental services to the evacuees, including a place to sleep, eat and wash.
"We can handle the (current evacuee numbers). The issue is how are we going to sustain resources over the longer term," said Mr Alex Masiglat, spokesman for disaster relief in the ground zero Calabarzon region.
Though no one has been reported killed in the eruption, it has wrought havoc on agriculture and tourism.
Taal is set in the middle of a picturesque lake that is a popular draw for tourists, especially because it is a mere 60km south of the hot and crowded capital Manila. - AFP