Philippines — Thirteen pilgrims trapped in the fire that continues to engulf a portion of the Mt. Banahaw in Sariaya, Quezon have been rescued from the three-peaked volcano complex.
A report by radio dzMM past 4:30 p.m. said authorities had rescued two more people, who were companions of 11 other pilgrams – six male, four female, and a child – who were also rescued earlier in the day.
Later, in an interview with dzMM, Dr. Henry Buzar of the Quezon Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, said the pilgrims earlier rescued from the camping site called “Tatlong Tangke” said their two companions had climbed the peak of the mountain, where the fire started past 6 p.m. Wednesday.
Buzar said it was possible that the two pilgrims who reached Banahaw’s peak lit candles that started the blaze.
The mountain peak remains off-limits to climbers, according to Buzar after the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) announced in 2012 that it had extended the pilgrimage moratorium on certain areas of Banahaw to 2016.
But Buzar said that despite the moratorium, climbers still find a way to enter the 10,901-hectare national park and protected area.
On Tuesday, DENR-Quezon chief Alfredo Palencia said Banahaw remained restricted to climbers.
Palencia issued the reminder after receiving a report from Salid Pangan, DENR park superintendent for Banahaw and the neighboring Mt. San Cristobal, that a syndicate was luring people to climb the mountain, promising them access to the pilgrimage site in exchange for a fee.
The Banahaw fire, which has so far destroyed 50 hectares of the mystical mountain, occurred just a day after another blaze engulfed Mt. Cristobal. The grass fire, which reportedly burned some 100 hectares of Mt. Cristobal, started 4 p.m., Tuesday and lasted until dawn Wednesday. The DENR said it had received information that reckless bee collectors caused the blaze.