(SPOT.ph) On January 12 at around 1.p.m., Taal Volcano erupted in a phreatic explosion, a.k.a. a steam-driven explosion. By 7:30 p.m., the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology released an advisory raised the alarm to Alert Level 4, meaning a "hazardous explosive eruption is possible within hours to days." The hours following the eruption showed ashfall reaching as far as parts of Metro Manila, with citizens being encouraged to keep safe by staying indoors as much as possible and keeping doors and windows closed to block out the ash, which could irritate your eyes, lungs, and skin. In case stepping out of your home remains a necessity, make sure to have the proper protective face masks to prevent the ash from entering your lungs.
Certified N95 and P100 masks (a.k.a. respirators) are made specifically to filter out smoke and ash as well as other hazardous elements. These are readily available in hardware shops, drug stores, and medical supply shops. Dust masks in hardware stores are also a possible alternative. However, you may find that the urgency of the situation means many of them are getting sold out. We recommend calling the local stores near you to check if they have the proper protective masks in stock before leaving your home to buy them.
The price per mask typically ranges from about P47 to P99, but note that the current state of emergency may cause prices to surge.
Here are some local shops that carry protective dust masks:
- Mercury Drug; see a list of branches.
- Watsons; see a list of branches.
- K2 Pharmacy; see a list of branches.
- Wilcon Depot; see a list of branches.
- True Value; see a list of branches.
- Handyman; see a list of branches.
- Ace Hardware; see a list of branches.
- Daiso Japan; see a list of branches.
- Medical Center Trading Corporation; see a list of branches.
- Philippine Medical Supplies (located at G. Araneta Avenue, Bagong Barrio West, Caloocan City)
- Medical Supplies Depot (located at Unit 10-1, One Global Place, 5th Avenue and 25th Street, Bonifacio Global City)
A large supply of N95 masks was also seen being delivered to medical supplies stores in Bambang, Santa Cruz, Manila City:
Here is what the masks typically look like so you know what you're looking for:
Note that color and shape may vary, but in general, dust masks feature a similar rounded shape, unlike the flat shape normally seen on surgical masks. Be sure to consult a store clerk before purchasing, so you can be certain that you are buying the proper mask.
Other quick and easy alternatives you can try:
Use a damp towel to cover your mouth and nose.
For those who cannot get ahold of the proper masks, an alternative would be to use a damp towel or cloth to cover the mouth and nose. The moisture will absorb the ash and dust, keeping them from entering your lungs.
Put two layers of tissue under a regular surgical mask.
If you have a surgical mask on hand, you may opt to wear one with two layers of facial tissue underneath, which will help filter out more dust, and will be useful for those who may find it difficult to breathe under the recommended N95 and P100 masks. However, note that surgical masks are not made to filter out ash, smoke, and toxic substances.
Keep refreshing because we will continue to update this spot as more information comes to light.