#TaalEruption2020: Know the harmful effects of volcanic ash

Marje Pelayo   •   January 15, 2020   •   761

Volcanic ash can be so fine that it can damage one’s vision and can penetrate the body’s respiratory system.

Depending on wind direction and eruption style, volcanic ash may remain suspended in the air for days, months or even years.

Larger and heavier rock fragments from the volcano easily fall back to the ground whereas lighter and smaller fragments are blown farther from the volcano by wind.

However, the smallest particle which is the volcanic ash can travel even thousands of kilometers depending of wind speed.

Kung masyadong pino ang ash fall, like less than 100 microns ang size, iyong ash kaya niyang lumutang sa hangin for a period of 3 days bago sya completely mag settle out (If volcanic ash measures less that 100 microns in size, that’s so fine that it can float in the air for a period of three days before it settles out),” explained Ma. Antonia Bornas, chief of Volcano Monitoring Division at the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS).

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) further explained that even if the ash settles on the ground, it can still be inhaled by humans.

“Kapag dinaanan ng sasakyan o naibuga ng hangin iyan balik na naman sa air iyan, so iyon ang problema natin ( When vehicles run over the ash or is swept by the wind, it is blown back into the air. That is the problem), ” noted DENR Undersecretary Benny Antiporda.

Volcanic ash can be mistaken for ordinary dust particles.

Try to put a small amount of oil on a small platter and leave it outdoors for about 20 minutes.

Small particles stick to the oil but it is difficult to determine which is volcanic ash because they are microscopic in size.

Less than 100 microns ang volcanic ash, mas maliit pa (Volcanic ash is usually less than 100 microns, so even smaller than ordinary dust particles),” Bornas said.

Volcanic ash is made up of tiny particles composed of varying proportions of volcanic glass, minerals or crystals, and other rock fragments that range from sand-size to powder-size.

The Department of Health (DOH) explained possible conditions which may be experienced after exposure to volcanic ash.

These include nose and throat irritation, breathing discomfort, eye irritation, coughing, bronchitis-like illness and minor skin problems.

“If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, seek immediate medical attention at the nearest health facility,” said Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.

Also, international health experts warned that exposure to volcanic ash can be deadly not only to humans but to animals and plants as smoke coming from a volcano is poisonous.

Dangerous particles and gases are carried by a single blow of volcanic ash.

These include aerosols, sulfates (sulfur dioxide), carbon dioxide, hydrochloric acid and hydroflouric acid that may cause different but serious effects on human health, animals and the environment in general.

READ: Batangas coffee industry hardest hit by Taal’s volcanic ash

According to Dr. Gerry Bagtasa of the University of the Philippines (UP) Institute of Environmental Science and Meteorology, there are volcanic eruptions in the Philippines that caused prolonged air pollution not only in the Philippines but in other countries as well like the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991 when  volcanic ash remain suspended in the atmosphere for two years.

So imbes na pumapasok yung ilaw ng araw na nagpapainit sa lupa, nagrereflect siya palayo, (So instead of penetrating and warming the earth, the light of the sun was reflected away from the earth),” explained Bagtasa.

Kaya lumamig ang buong mundo for around two years after the eruption, (That’s the reason why the world became cooler for two years after the eruption),” he added.

PHIVOLCS, meanwhile, noted that there are records of volcanic eruptions that have affected other countries of farther distance from the eruption site, but they have not observed such in the history of Taal Volcano.

The location of Taal Volcano is a major concern for the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) as dangerous levels of sulfur from the rumbling volcano could affect marine life.

Inaasahan natin na posibleng magkaroon ng fishkill dahil sa mataas na konsentrasyon ng sulfur sa tubig (We are expecting a fish kill because of the high concentration of sulfur in the water),” noted Nazario Briguera, BFAR’s Chief of Information and Fisherfolks Coordination Unit.

“Nakakalason ito sa isda once na ma-ingest (This is poisonous to fish once ingested),” he confirmed.

READ: Taal residents brave danger to rescue animals from volcano island

Alert Level 4 is the highest level declared, so far, over Taal Volcano which means a hazardous eruption is imminent within hours or days,

Experts warn it might reach the highest alert level 5 due to increase seismic activities in the volcano island.

But hopes are high that it will not lead to a major ‘explosive eruption.’ – MNP (with inputs from Rey Pelayo)   

Phivolcs sees geohazard, flooding risks in Bulacan Airport

Aileen Cerrudo   •   September 25, 2020

The project site of the proposed New Manila International Airport in Bulacan has geohazard risks, according to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs).

The multi-billion airport is sitting on soft ground and its location is prone to frequent flooding, according to Phivolcs Usec. Renato Solidum.

“Just to be very specific on the facts is that it is far away from the fault. But since it’s underlain by sand with a shallow water table, it’s prone to strong ground shaking and liquefaction,” he said.

Solidum said they conducted an assessment to ensure the safety of the community as well as to protect investments. He recommended making buildings and infrastructure resilient to hazards.

“Dapat iyong building mo ay maayos ang disenyo na maging stable siya habang lumilindol at hindi siya tumagilid. Or pwede mo ring patibayan ang lupa. Bawasan mo iyong tubig, palitan mo iyong lupa, (The building should have a proper design for it to be stable during earthquakes. The ground can also be strengthen by reducing its water content or replacing the soil),” he added.

Meanwhile, San Miguel Holdings Corporation (SMC) said they have been taking into account the risks in designing the P740 billion domestic and international airport in Bulacan. The SMC also assured they have studied the project, including its feasibility, and all possible risks.

“The airport’s design fully takes this into account and we have actually started implementing sustainable measures to address flooding in Bulacan that has existed for several decades and has been made worse by clogged waterways and drainages,” according to SMC.

The corporation also tapped three major global airport construction firms to ensure the airport is resilient, sustainable, and will provide the best benefits for all Filipinos. AAC (with reports from Vincent Arboleda)

Magnitude 6.4 rocks Davao Occidental

Maris Federez   •   September 7, 2020

A magnitude 6.4 earthquake shook Davao Occidental at around 11:23 in the evening of Sunday, Sept. 6.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said the tremor was located east of Don Marcelino in Davao Occidental with a depth of 149 kilometers.

The quake was tectonic in origin.

Phivolcs is yet to report initial damage, although it warned of aftershocks in the affected areas. —/mbmf

PHIVOLCS reminds public to prepare for potential hazards amid COVID-19 pandemic

Marje Pelayo   •   July 29, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Earthquake drills have been suspended since the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) occupied the government in the past months. 

The National Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) acknowledges the risk of COVID-19 transmission if people engage in drills.

“Delikado pa kasi iyan ngayong may pandemya pa, (That is risky given that we are in the midst of a pandemic),” explained the agency’s spokesperson Mark Timbal.

Timbal said they can still resume as soon as a vaccine for COVID-19 is discovered.

“I believe that we will resume the drills once both an effective treatment program as well as an immunization/vaccine is already available,” he added.

Despite the suspension of the drills, the agency said the public gets the information it needs through the local government units through constant information campaigns about disasters and diseases, specifically health protocols in evacuation centers, wearing face mask, using personal protective equipment and practicing social distancing.

The NDRRMC also conducts online training for that matter. 

But for the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS), it is still important to always prepare for potential disasters like earthquakes, typhoons and serious floodings even in the midst of a pandemic.

Science and Technology Undersecretary and PHIVOLCS OIC Renator Solidum assured that the agency is constantly conducting online seminars among LGUs and assessing the possible impact of disasters like earthquakes in their respective areas.

PHIVOLCS encourages every member of the family to discuss preparations amongst themselves as to what they will do in case of a serious earthquake like where they could possibly go to be safe. 

Each family also needs to have an emergency kit in place complete with face masks, alcohol or sanitizer.

In the past many large scale disasters minsan merong mga natataong mga pandemic. Mahirap iyon kung hindi handa sa pareho, [In the past, there were large scale disasters that happened along with a pandemic. It’s difficult to be in both situations unprepared,]” Solidum explained.

“We should prepared for both, not only for COVID-19 but also other possible large-scale hazards,” he added.

PHIVOLCS has created applications which can be checked for potential hazards in a specific area and these applications can be accessed through the Georisk Philippines website. MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)


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