Philippines — The municipality of Rapu-Rapu in Albay province has declared a state of calamity due to a forest fire that has raged for the fourth day Monday and affected more than 2,000 hectares of land.
Vice Mayor Nora Oñate told the Inquirer on Monday morning that at least 2,000 families had to be evacuated.
The fire has been controlled in parts of Batan Island but still threatens a big part of Rapu-Rapu,she said.
The town known for rich mineral deposits, such as copper, gold, zinc and coal, is composed of the three islands of Rapu-Rapu, Batan and Guinanayan. It has 34 barangays.
Oñate said that based on the local governments initial assessment on Sunday, the fire had razed grasslands in the mainland villages of Poblacion; Morocborocan; Mananao, especially its subvillage of Acal; Guadalupe, and Buenavista.
She said about 5,000 households live in these villages.
Oñate said their assessment showed that the subvillage of Minto in Barangay San Ramon on Batan Island was also razed.
Cedric Daep, head of Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office, in an interview, said he had ordered the municipal health office of Rapu-Rapu to be alert after the area was blanketed by thick haze and smog coming from the forest fire.
Even the water system has been affected, he added.
He said the burning of upland crops, coconut trees, leaves of anahaw and caragumoy (Pandanus simplex) used for mat-weaving had affected the livelihood of residents.
If the fire continues to become intense due to strong winds, maybe it will last until Wednesday, he said.
The fire was first reported to provincial authorities at 9 a.m. on Sunday, said a post in the Facebook page of Gov. Joey Salceda.
A Philippine Air Force (PAF) Huey 2 with Bambi Bucket arrived at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday for aerial fire fighting.
The aircraft was equipped with a carrier filled with water (fetched from the sea) which was [dropped] in the burning area, Maj. Arvin Joel Buan, deputy group commander of PAF Tactical Operations Group 5 based in Legazpi City, said in a text message.
Salceda, in an interview over DZMM Monday afternoon, said a specialized helicopter had used up about 33,000 liters as it helped control the fire. He said strong winds induced by the southwest monsoon was affecting the fire-fighting operations.
He said the residents of affected villages were advised to evacuate to Batan Island.
Daep said ground validation reports on Monday confirmed that almost 2,093 ha of grassland were affected by the fire.
The local government prepared to evacuate 1,748 families (8,142 people). Of these, 188 families (1,019 people) are from Barangay Morocborocan, 275 families (1,170 people) from Mananao and 1,285 families (5,953 people) from Sitio Pitogo of Poblacion.
Fires from other areas have been controlled, but these areas are still under threat, Daep said.
Oñate said the forest fire could have been aggravated by the dried cogongrass and trees that were toppled after the devastation brought by Typhoon Glenda.