Alexander Krah flew to the Philippines to sell pipes and helped those affected by the volcano eruption
Actually, Alexander Krah was supposed to fly to the Philippines on the 12th of January. But the employees of Krah Pipes Manila told him that it wouldn’t be the best time to visit the company in Dasmarinas/Cavite right now. The volcano Taal erupted on the 12th of January and a larger eruption was possible in the next time. The company area and the hotel where he was supposed to sleep were covered with ash and the alert level was raised to level 4 (out of a maximum of 5).
The volcano Taal is located in the province of Batangas on the main island Luzon, nearly 66 kilometres south of the capital Manila. It´s the second most active volcano in the Philippines and one of the most dangerous ones in the world. This means that there have been repeated eruptions there in history. The last major eruption was in 1977, since 1572 there were 33 of them. In recent history the most disastrous one was in 1911. At that time, more than 1.300 people died. The Philippines are on the pacific "Ring of fire" - the geologically most active Vulcanic zone on earth with more than 450 volcanos.
And that’s how Taal was created: Around 100.000 years ago, a huge eruption opened a crater, 25 to 30 kilometres wide. In this crater a lake with an island formed. Volcano Island is up to 311 meters high and in there again is a lake with a small island. Therefore, also the danger of a tsunami exists during an eruption. Today, several thousand people live on Volcano Island, inhabiting an area of 23 square kilometres. More than half a million people had to be evacuated after the eruption on the 12th of January. The lava as well as toxic gases and ashes were a high risk for them. They all were brought to evacuation centres, schools and other public buildings and didn´t know when they could return and if their houses were damaged.
The volcano Taal
Our company in Dasmarinas, Krah Manila, is only 30 km away from Taal and gets the effects of the eruption – everything is covered with ash, the air is very dusty und rain turned the ash into mud.
On the 14th of January, the airport in Manila was opened again and despite the risk of another eruption of Taal, Alexander flew to Manila. Krah Pipes Manila has its own social program called “Krah Cares” and for sure we wanted to help those affected. On Alexander’s first day at the company, they told him that three of the employees live close to Taal and were inside the evacuation-zone and therefore they had to leave their homes. Alexander went to meet Sherryl and Zaldy, two of the affected workers to talk with them about Taal, the eruption and their view into the future.
Interview with Sheryll and Zaldy
AK: Sheryll, can you tell me something about you? What´s your age, your profession, do you have kids? What do you do in your freetime?
S: I’m 38 yrs old from Mendez, Cavite. I am married and have got 1 child. I have been working with Krah Pipes since May 2016 as an HR Officer. During my freetime, I like playing with my daughter or do household chores.
Z: I am Zaldy. I am 37 years old with a wife and 2 children, a daughter and a son. I am currently working as a machine operator in Krah Pipes Manila to provide for my family.
AK: How did you experience the eruption of Taal?
S: It is unbelievable and frightening because it is my first time to experience volcanic eruption. The activities of Taal volcano have been very disturbing and alarming, from Alert level 2 to Alert level 4 in a span of 4 hours. We have no electricity supply, ash fall comes with the rain (mud), every minute earthquakes which have increased in frequency and intensity, continuous volcanic lighting and thunder. Supply of water is not enough.
Many evacuees from Batangas are temporarily evacuated in my hometown.
Z: The ash fall irritates the eyes and we experienced a lot of earthquakes. I was most afraid with the sudden rise of sea level because we live close to the sea.
AK: What was your first thought when you heard about the eruption? How did you feel?
S: I couldn’t believe that Taal volcano is erupting during that time because as far as I know, I haven’t heard any news about its sudden status. And it was perfectly fine when I saw it in the morning and in the afternoon of January 12.
Z: This is dangerous and life threatening.
AK: Did you stay at home alone? What were you doing?
S: Last January 12, me and my family were in Balayan, Batangas, to attend a special event. There were no signs and indications that Taal volcano would be erupting soon.
Z: When it got worse I was at home with my whole family, my mother and other relatives. We were packing our things and preparing to leave if the situation became worse.
AK: Did you notice anything before the eruption? (Earthquake or something like that). Were you expecting an eruption?
S: We saw the Taal Volcano at around 8:30 in the morning and during that time, it’s perfectly fine. It was a sunny day, also, it was traffic because many tourists are in Tagaytay for the weekend. No smoke or any indications of Taal eruption.
Z: Everything was sudden. But I remember that earthquakes were happening months before this eruption.
AK: Who did inform you about the evacuation and when? What was the evacuation procedure?
S: January 16, our local municipal government conducted a meeting on each Barangays to reveal the real situation and to clarify and to validate all directives of our town. Based on the report from PHILVOCS (Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology), my hometown (Mendez) was within the 17km evacuation radius. And if the situation became worse, we would need to evacuate. Our LGU prepared buses to each Barangays to send the people to the evacuation area, located in Indang, Cavite – 20 minutes away from Mendez. Also, as per LGU, we don’t need to panic because Tagaytay and Mendez is a high place. And if we will base it on the ash fall we experienced, we are not that affected compared with other towns nearby.
Z: I heard it from the news. It was our barangay officials who assisted us.
AK: Do you know people who experienced the last eruption of Taal in 1977?
S: Yes. My mother experienced the last Taal Volcanic eruption in 1977, but all she remembered was that many people were evacuated to Mendez. Also, when I met my former classmate in Highschool some time ago,she said that her mother experienced Taal eruption in 1965 and 1977, but her town Tagaytay is not that affected because it is high place.
Z: My father and other old neighbours also experienced the eruption in 1977.
AK: Where did they bring you and your family? For how long will you have to stay here?
S: As per our local government, our evacuation center will be in Indang Cavite (one of the towns in Cavite), 20 mins away from Mendez away from Tagaytay. But me and my family, will not go to evacuation center because I have my siblings in Manila, and San Pablo Laguna. Also, my in laws are in Pangasinan, one of the provinces in North.
Z: We are lucky to have relatives who live nearby but is outside the danger zone. We will only be able to go back to our own house once the authorities permit us.
AK: What makes you feel sad or helpless?
S: The people who lived in volcano island who lost their home and the source of their income. The animals that where left behind because there is no way to save them all.
Z: When I think about my friends and neighbour who have lost their homes.
AK: What did you take with you and why?
S: Some clothes, medicines and important documents. Things that will help us to survive.
Z: Only the important ones.
AK: Is it possible for you now to go to work and for the kids to go to school?
S: I go to work even if it is Alert level 4. I just pray to God to save his people and doesn’t let anything worse happen. And I always think that Tagaytay and my hometown is in a high place and safe. Classes are suspended in nearby towns while the Taal Volcano is in Alert level 4.
Z: I am able to go back to work at Krah, but my kids have to stay home.
AK: Are you preparing for a big eruption? If yes, how do you do that?
S: No. Honestly, we have no plans.
Z: Yes. We are ready just in case. We have already informed our relatives that we may stay with them once Taal totally erupts. All things are packed as well.
AK: Is this village your hometown? Is it your own house and with who are you living there?
S: Yes, It is my hometown. I have my own house, but during the Taal eruption, me and my daughter stayed at my parents home, 15 minutes away from my home. (same hometown)
Z: Yes, I was born here. I live in my parents’ house together with my whole family and other relatives.
AK: Do you think it´s dangerous living in this region? Do you think about moving?
S: No, it is not dangerous. I didn’t think about moving to somewhere. I love my hometown. I love the weather and environment.
Z: Right now, the situation is really dangerous. I am planning to move to a farther place from Taal but still relatively close to my work.
AK: Are you afraid of losing your home?
S: Yes of course.
Z: Of course! Where would we live??
AK: What happens next? What´s your plan?
S: I have no plans. I believe God will protect us and that Taal Volcano will be the same again, calm and beautiful.
Z: No further plans for now. Hopefully, when the situation gets better, we will go back to our home.
AK: How did the whole experience made you feel now?
S: It was a once in a lifetime experience. It touches my heart to see and to hear that people / donors / volunteers all over the Philippines went out their way to help the evacuees during their moment of crisis. It may take some time to recover and to regain what was lost, but it just shows that no matter what crisis may come, people will hold with their faith and with each other.
Z: I always hope that Taal won’t erupt anytime soon. We can’t remain calm and peaceful because of its impending eruption. On the other side, we are very thankful to those people who are so willing to help us in situations like this. We cannot thank them enough! And in Jesus name, I hope everything goes back to normal, soon.
AK: Thank you for the interview, I wish you all the best!
The Krah-Cares team in Manila
On Sunday, the 19th of January, three vehicles from the Krah company loaded with food drove into the regions where people had not yet left their homes because they didn´t get a place in the national evacuation centres. A lot of food and water was sold out in the supermarkets because everyone wanted to stock up in case of emergency. Therefore, there was not enough for everyone. In a small catholic church, bags with food and other important things were given to the people. On the way to the region and back there were a lot of people standing on the street with signs “Help us”. For sure, we gave them bags too. There were a lot of little earthquakes in the last days, so that many houses were damaged, and streets cracked. Hopefully, not too many people have lost their homes. Thanks to the fast evacuation, nobody died or was injured. That´s because Taal is one of the best-monitored volcanos of the world due to its high activity. But as we heard afterwards, some people died in the evacuation centres due to diseases, because there were too many people in too little space. Some people also ignored the warning to not return to their houses. Even some tourists came to the region to see Taal and take pictures – very careless.
But let´s also look at the positive things - It was really impressing to see that a lot of people brought food into the affected regions with their mopeds, even though themselves have only little. It´s great to see how they support each other in difficult times. Hopefully, Taal will calm down quickly and does not cause an even bigger catastrophe – fingers crossed!
Authors: Jenny (Krah Pipes Germany) and Krah Pipes Manila