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AUTHORITIE­S are implementi­ng a “lockdown” in at least three Batangas towns near Taal Volcano to prevent residents from returning to their homes, as the volcano continued to show signs of unrest.

Col. Edwin Quilates, Batangas provincial police director, said checkpoint­s are being maintained in

Talisay, San Nicolas, and Agoncillo to prevent evacuees from returning.

“They (evacuees) will be stopped from returning, depending on their purpose. If they are only coming back to fetch their animals, they will be allowed. But staying is prohibited,” Quilates told Bandera by phone.

In a separate interview, Army 203rd Brigade commander Brig. Gen. Marceliano Teofilo said the “preventive measure” is being conducted following recommenda­tions by the Office of Civil Defense and the Department of Interior and Local Government.

Parts of Balete, Agoncillo, and Lemery are also being considered for lockdown, he said.

“May iba kasi na bumabalik para kuhain ang kanilang mga gamit, animals. Kaya lang pag may bumabalik at may mangyari sa bulkan, hihingi naman ng tulong para ma-rescue.”

Teofilo, also commander of the military’s Joint Task Group Taal, said soldiers, policemen, and barangay officials are conducting foot patrols to prevent incidents of looting.

Alert Level 4 is still hoisted as Philippine Institute of Volcanolog­y and Seismology continues to monitor the activities of the volcano.

Level 4 means that a “hazardous explosive eruption” is possible within hours to days.

In a press briefing on Tuesday, Phivolcs announced that fissures or cracks related to the volcanic activity were observed in several parts of Lemery, Agoncillo, Talisay, and San Nicolas, as well as along the road connecting Agoncillo to Laurel.

Such fissures were also observed days before Taal Volcano had a climactic eruption in 1911, said Mariton Bornas, Philvocs volcano monitoring and eruption prediction division chief.

“Ang ibig sabihin po nito ay may umaakyat pa na magma,” Bornas said, as she reiterated the need for a total evacuation of residents of Taal Volcano Island and areas within a 14-kilometer radius from the main crater.

People living within such distance are at high risk of pyroclasti­c density currents and volcanic tsunami, according to PHIVOLCS.

Meanwhile, the agency said lava fountains at the main crater generated 800-meter tall dark gray steam-laden plumes that drifted to the southwest.

Forty-nine volcanic earthquake­s were recorded from 2 a.m. to 10 a.m. Seven of these earthquake­s were felt with intensitie­s ranging from Intensity 2 to 4 in Tagaytay City.

Second casualty

A 65-year-old woman was reported to have died while being evacuated.

Anatalia Dionisio reportedly died of cardiac arrest during evacuation in Talisay town on Monday, the Office of Civil Defense-Calabarzon said in its report.

Dionisio was second person reported to have died amid the volcanic eruption, following the driver of a truck that crashed in Calamba City, Laguna, allegedly because of heavy ash fall.

Some 9,527 families, or more than 40,700 persons, in Batangas and Cavite have been affected by the eruption, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

Of this, 8,896 families or 38,203 persons are staying in evacuation centers.

Meanwhile, the NDRRMC said it has recieved reports of at least P74.5 million worth of agricultur­al damage caused by the eruption.

The figure is mostly made up of coffee plantation­s damaged by the ash fall, as well as some corn and livestock like chicken and carabao.

Classes remain suspended in Batangas and Cavite, Laguna except Calauan town, and Antipolo City, Pililla, San Mateo, and Morong of Rizal. — John Roson

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