P.E.I. family stuck in Philippines following volcanic eruption

Nearly a week after they were supposed to return home to Canada, a P.E.I. family is "going day by day," as they wait for a flight out of the Philippines, following a volcanic eruption last weekend. 

Stephen and Laarnie Bell, and their two young children, travelled to the country to visit Laarnie's family. They were scheduled to leave on Jan. 13, but the day before, the Taal volcano erupted, spewing ash, and prompting evacuations of nearby communities.

"The day it happened, we were at the airport the whole day and it was, well, you could imagine the airport was full of thousands of people trying to get their flights booked back home," Stephen said. 

"So we had to be in a queue for the day and we eventually got in to our airline, and had the soonest flight we could get, and that was the 26th."

The Bells are staying with relatives in Pililla, Rizal province, southeast of Manilla, and about 150 kilometres from the volcano.

"It took some time for us to actually feel the effects," Stephen said. But by nightfall, ash from the volcano had "blanketed our whole community."

Health concerns

For the Bells, their primary concern as they wait to leave the country is the health of their children. Stephen said most people are wearing masks and eye protection. 

They are keeping their kids indoors, to protect them from the ash. 

"We are quite concerned about their health though, for sure."

Submitted by Stephen Bell

An added concern is access to suitable food for their 10-month-old daughter, Gabrielle. Stephen said she has a dietary condition, which means there are many foods she can't eat.

The family brought their own food on the trip with them, but never expected they would be there so long. They've been able to find food locally, but the situation is stressful, Stephen said. 

"We're really trying to get back home to get her diet back on track here, for her health." 

Fear of another eruption

Stephen said the conditions in the community where his family is staying are "pretty stable," but he worries things could get worse before they are able to leave. The volcano continued to send out plumes of ash throughout the week.

Submitted by Stephen Bell

"We are getting, you know, daily reports from the news that there could be a catastrophic eruption with this volcano," Stephen said. 

"We're living our daily lives here, but there's always that, you know, that stress in the back of our minds that you know something worse could happen, and we'd be stuck here for much much longer."

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