Ashes to bricks: Philippine city helps others rebuild after volcano

BINAN (Reuters) - A Philippine city shrouded in ash from the nearby Taal volcano has turned adversity into an opportunity to help neighboring towns hit by the natural disaster.

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The mayor of Biñan has ordered residents to collect ash blanketing homes, cars and roads and put it in sacks to be sent to a state-owned factory and turned into bricks.

“When the ash came, we thought we’d exchange the white sand which we mix with plastics to be converted into bricks with ash. We did it and they came out sturdy,” Biñan Mayor Walfredo Dimaguila, 48, told Reuters.

The facility can produce up to 5,000 bricks a day which will be used to rebuild schools damaged since Taal, one of the Philippines’ most active and deadliest volcanoes, began spewing massive clouds of ash, steam and gas on Sunday.

“What we plan is to turn them into hollow blocks and bricks and sell them to interested companies,” Dimaguila said, adding that the proceeds would be donated to people directly affected by the restive volcano.

Several buildings in lakeside towns near Taal volcano, located about 70 km (45 miles) south of the capital, were destroyed as heavy ash weighed makeshift roofs and toppled trees, and tens of thousands of people have fled their homes.

Some of the evacuees are unsure if they have home and livelihood to return to.

“When Batangas is in recovery, we will bring the bricks there for building schools, community halls and livelihood centers so what we can give back what Taal has given us,” Dimaguila said, referring to the province where Taal is located.

Binan is in the neighboring province of Laguna.

“The misfortune of our neighbors in Batangas is there. Let’s transform this into opportunity.”

Reporting by Adrian Portugal, Writing by Karen Lema and Neil Jerome Morales; editing by Mike Collett-White