Call it act of Nature and not act of God

ASHFALL was the nation’s favorite word the past two weeks or so.   Seemingly, it still is.

The reason is simple: Taal Volcano erupted on January 12, triggering a massive ashfall from Batangas, Taal’s home, to many parts of Metro Manila up to as far as Quezon province down South and Pangasinan up North.   The last time an ashfall attack came was in 1991, during Mount Pinatubo’s explosion that sent ashes flying to as far as the Middle East and Europe.

Included as among the hardest hit sector by the Taal eruption is the automotive industry. Thousands of vehicles are affected in that their mobility and usage are almost reduced to a standstill due to engines possibly conking out through an overdose of ashfall ingestion.

Vehicle air-cons might have been damaged, severely or otherwise, and windshields broken as well from ashfall exposure.

Almost immediately after the Taal’s sudden outburst, advisories on how to handle the ashfall assault erupted all over. But Visor seemed to have made the most rationale take.   From Vernon B. Sarne, the indefatigable Visor chief, this:

“Here’s how to protect your car in the event of ashfall”

“Many of us are old enough to remember Mount Pinatubo’s eruption in 1991.   If you were already running around then, you will remember how the air was suddenly filled with ash-like material that made it difficult to breathe.   That volcano substance was not only hard on human lungs, it was also harsh on car paint.

“And now that Taal Volcano is acting up already at Alert Level 4 [hazardous eruption imminent], according to the latest update of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology [Phivolcs] as we write this—we’re experiencing the same thing all over again.   Thankfully, automakers have been tasking their dealerships to extend special assistance to affected customers.   One of these is Toyota Motor Philippines [TMP], whose customer service department has issued an advisory about what to do with the vehicles in this situation.   Toyota’s to-do list:

  • Please wash your vehicles with pressurized water to remove ash from the vehicle’s body, but please do not wipe the vehicle while spraying water to avoid scratches on the vehicle’s body.
  • Please repeat if vehicle continues to be covered with ashfall.
  • If engine room is affected, please bring your vehicle to your nearest Toyota dealer for proper engine cleaning.
  • Please also protect yourself from the ashfall while cleaning your vehicle by wearing protective gear like raincoat or mask.

“Please share these simple tips with friends and relatives who live in affected areas.”

Insurance woes

IN times of calamities, many insurance companies do not usually pay the right claims by their clients.   Some completely ignore please from affected customers, citing disasters like those caused by typhoons and even earthquakes as “acts of God” and, therefore, are not covered by monetary assistance. However, Standard Insurance made a difference when, in the coattails of the deadly Typhoon Ondoy some years back, it declared a landmark company stand: “Calamities are not acts of God but, rather, acts of Nature.” Promptly, the outfit extended the necessary financial awards to its clients.

I’m proud of that momentous position of Standard, whose founder, the late, lamented Dr. Echauz, was a dear friend of my Uncle Amading, who recently passed on in New York City, USA.

Will Standard do the same to our ashfall victims?

Divine intervention

WE can calm down our parents’ tantrums with tender loving care but not Mother Nature. Once a volcano blows its top, there’s no saying what follows next; there’s virtually no force on Earth to stop its fury—except, of course, divine intervention.

And so, as Taal Volcano has remained at Alert Level 4, it can erupt a second time, anytime, with possibly more force and devastation? God have mercy.

Some 14 or so towns and cities of Batangas and Cavite have remained virtual ghost towns, their inhabitants hauled off, almost forcibly, to evacuation centers outside of the 14-kilometer radius of danger zone.

Many roads have become non-passable to any kind of vehicle as a result of the volcano eruption, accompanied by intermittent earthquakes, creating fissures and cracks on thoroughfares—not to mention houses getting damaged almost irreparably.

As of last data by the Department of Agriculture, over 55,000 farm animals, including cattle, carabaos, horses, pigs, chicken and goats, have died—the toll valued at over P3 billion.

Over 15,790 hectares of farmlands and kilometers of roads have been affected by the eruption and subsequent ashfall, according to government officials who said fisheries losses amounted to P1.6 billion.

Evacuees now number more than 500,000; if it’s any consolation, only five casualties have been recorded—two from suffering heart attacks and three volunteers succumbing to injuries following a road crash.  If thousands of vehicles are still undergoing repairs, if not rehabilitation, I commiserate with their owners.

Prayers to all.

PEE STOP Happy January birthday celebrators to my fellow motoring journalists Ray Butch “Elvis” Gamboa and Vernon B. Sarne.   May Elvis continue to regain his health and live a happy life again—even as I reiterate my sympathies to Vernon for having lost his father (the Mustang driving, dear Virgilio, who succumbed to liver malfunction) in Hackensack, New Jersey, USA.

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