Preemptive evacuation of riverbank folk in Butuan

BUTUAN CITY (MindaNews/20 Janua) – Learning its lessons from the tragic aftermath of the floods brought by Storm Sendong in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan cities last month, the city government has decided to relocate at least 6,000 families living along the flood walls of Agusan River.

Executive Order No.53 signed last week created Task Force Likas with the mandate to undertake an immediate and complete preemptive evacuation and relocation of all these families.

“We have learned our lesson from what Cagayan de Oro and Iligan City suffered after Sendong. A budget of 40 million is allocated for the operation of the task force,” said Butuan City Mayor Ferdinand Amante Jr. who also heads the body.

He cited that Butuan City faces a huge threat being the catch basin of Davao-Compostela Valley Range through the Agusan River.

He said Compostela Valley was already suffering from the impact of heavy rains on degraded forest areas.

Amante recalled that the Agusan River has a history of swelling every 20 years that eventually flooded the city but that it has become more frequent recently.

He said if the city government would not act on it now a massive flashflood can hit them off guard.

Gracia Burdeos-Espere, the City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council’s (CDRRMC) focal person, said they are now implementing a five-year project on disaster risk reduction.

“From January 24 to 26, we will meet with the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council to review the commitments on the planning and implementation together with the Office of Civil Defense. The city can only do so little since the river covers most of Caraga Region. We need the commitment of other concerned government agencies,” Espere said.

Last October 2011, the local government created the Butuan Search and Rescue Team (BUSART) to address the lack of first responders in times of disasters and emergencies, a lesson learned when floods hit the city in January and February last year and caused several fatalities. (Erwin Mascarinas/MindaNews)