Last survivor rescued, Mayon search operations end

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LEGAZPI CITY, 10-May-2013 (PNA) – After almost 72 hours of search and rescue (SAR) operation for the Thai national mountaineer, the last unaccounted-for survivor of Tuesday’s Mount Mayon explosion, was finally retrieved and brought to the Bicol Regional Teaching and Training Hospital (BRTTH) on Friday for medical treatment, a ranking official of the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) said.

Boonchai Jattaparnong, a Thai national, is now confined and being treated at the BRTTH after suffering from second-degree burns on his chest and two arms due to superheated gas emitted by the volcano when it exploded on Tuesday, according to Raffy Alejandro, OCD regional director.

Boonchai was airlifted by a helicopter from Mount Mayon’s Camp 1.

The chopper landed at about 12:45 p.m. Friday at the Philippine Air Force Tactical Operation Group (TOG) 5 and was immediately brought to the BRTTH.

Alejandro said Boonchai has to stay at the BRTTH for at least three days for a thorough medical examination.

Asked how the survivor’s condition was when found, Alejandro quoted a SAR team member as saying that the Thai national was in stable condition despite suffering some burns in his body.

A consul from the Thailand Embassy arrived here on Thursday to see the SAR effort being done by the regional and provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Councils and attend to Boonchai’s medical needs.

Boonchai was among the survivors of a group of mountaineers who climbed the 2,600-meter high volcano in Albay.

The mountain climbers were reportedly already near Mayon’s peak after Camp 2, in a spot called the Rabbit’s Ear, when the volcano had a phreatic or steam-driven explosion that killed a Spanish and three German nationals and their local mountain guide.

Alejandro said the SAR teams had to wrap up their operation after they had found the last survivor.

Meanwhile, the remains of the foreign nationals were airlifted via Air Philippines, a commercial plane, at around 10:00 a.m. Friday.

They will be met at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport by their respective embassy representatives.

Albay Governor Joey Salceda said in a phone interview that he will declare the existing permanent danger zone (PDZ) surrounding Mayon Volcano as strictly a “No man’s land” even in normal conditions.

“Even in normal conditions, people are at risk of volcanic events, citing the alert zero status of the volcano when it suddenly exploded on Tuesday while a group of mountaineers was climbing the volcano,” Salceda said.

He said that learning from this volatile situation, the province has to pass an ordinance prohibiting human activities in the declared permanent danger zone.

As a ”no human activity” area, the ordinance will prohibit mountain climbing, all-terrain vehicle activities, lava front watching and farming within the PDZ.

The ordinance will also prohibit the exhibit of tourism promotion collateral that would attract people to visit the PDZ.

“We have to engage with our tourism stakeholders and facilitate the crafting of an ordinance that would address and clear the gray areas surrounding the climbing of Mayon Volcano,” Salceda said.

He said the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) has already proposed an ordinance regulating climbing activities at the Mayon Volcano.

The proposal has to be put on hold since it needs to be fine-tuned, especially with regard to the penal provision imposing fines and imprisonment.

Another issue to be resolved is that the proposed ordinance has to undergo a series of public hearings because questions about the public’s rights to life and to travel. (PNA)

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