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Safety reminders during Taal Volcano's period of unrest

Volcanic fog or vog due to the unrest of Taal Volcano has been affecting portions of Batangas, Cavite, and even Laguna prompting local officials to suspend classes and government work.

In an interview with SuperRadyo dzBB Friday, Mayor Wilson Maralit of Balete, Batangas said many students experienced vomiting due to the vog. He said he also suffered difficulty in breathing.

Meanwhile, more than 40 students have been brought to various hospitals in Tuy, Batangas due to the effects of vog.

Dr. Amor Calayan, head of the Batangas Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office, said the vog has been affecting towns in the province for two weeks now.

Zero visibility conditions were reported in Tuy, Balayan, Lian, and Nasugbu in Batangas.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said Friday it cannot say yet until when the vog will continue

For protection, here are the things one must do to ensure safety during Taal’s period of unrest.

Stay indoors as much as possible

Sulfur dioxide is a mixture of sulfur and oxygen most commonly released by active volcanoes. It is often characterized as colorless smoke that smells similar to matchsticks or explosives.

Sulfur emissions are acidic and can easily irritate the eyes, throat and nose if thoroughly exposed.

The public is advised not to go outside as much as possible to avoid possible effects of prolonged sulfur dioxide exposure.

Immunocompromised groups such as people with asthma, heart and lung conditions, children and the elderly, and pregnant women are not advised to leave their homes.

Protect yourself

If one has to leave their house, the use of N95 face masks would be the next best step to limit the inhalation of sulfur dioxide and any other volcanic debris.

Ensure all doors and windows inside your homes are closed.

Keep drinking water to flush out any irritation in your system and to relax your respiratory system.

Know your volcanic first aid

If affected by vog through prolonged exposure or possible volcanic debris, the first step is to wash out the eyes with clean water to flush out any chemical that may have affected it.

Immediately wash hands and skin thoroughly with warm water and soap to remove any chemical that may have been stuck.

If any clothes have been affected by the volcanic gas, immediately change and wash.

Further medical actions

If exposed to high concentrations of volcanic chemicals, the patient must be brought immediately to a wide space with fresh air.

If difficulties in breathing continue, the patient must immediately be brought to a hospital or barangay health centers.

Maintain calm and observe the patient.

Taal Volcano remains under Volcanic Level 1 or “low level unrest” and remains under observation after five volcanic tremors lasting up to 575 minutes from Thursday to Friday and an observed pronounced upwelling of hot volcanic fluids in the Main Crater Lake.

PHIVOLCS said possible hazards that can occur due to the volcano’s activity are steam-driven or phreatic or gas-driven explosions, volcanic earthquakes, minor ashfall, and lethal accumulations or expulsions of volcanic gas.

Recurring threat

“As long as Taal Volcano is spewing out sulfur dioxide, this will be a recurring threat,” PHIVOLCS director Dr. Teresito Bacolcol told GMA Integrated News’ Unang Balita in an interview on Friday.

“Iyong duration po ng (the duration of) sulfur dioxide emission cannot be predicted due to unprecedented levels in the recorded history,” he added.

Bacolcol said in the case of Miyake-jima in Japan, it took around five years for its sulfur dioxide emission to slow down.

For Taal Volcano, Bacolcol said the direction of the sulfur dioxide emission was drifting towards the west affecting Tuy, Calaca, Balayan, and Nasugbu towns in Batangas. He said local governments have the discretion to implement evacuation of residents if needed. —AOL, GMA Integrated News