Cagayan de Oro applies lessons learned from Sendong

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 3 Nov) – Calling their lapses in the aftermath of tropical storm Sendong last year as “birth pains,” this city’s Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (CDRRMC) aims to improve their performance as super typhoon “Pablo” (international codename: Bopha) entered the Philippine Area of Responsibility late last night.


Early this afternoon, the CDRRMC already sounded the voluntary evacuation siren in Consolacion, one of the worst-hit barangays last year, as the sky over this city turned gray. Senior citizens, women and children have evacuated. Isla Bugnaw in Consolacion now looks like a ghost community with only a few men securing belongings and important documents.


“When the President issued EO (Executive Order) 318 in June last year, many, especially among the barangay chairs, were confounded because the disaster risk reduction concept was new. Many of our barangay chairs did not know how to implement it in their barangays,” City Councilor President Elipe told local reporters during an emergency press briefing here Saturday.


“When Sendong struck the city last year, our CDRRMC was already organized but it was still relatively new. You can call it birth pains but we have learned a lot after Sendong,” he added.


Elipe, along with three city councilors – Adrian Barba, Alexander Dacer and Ramon Tabor – have been tasked as district action officers. Each councilor is assigned to focus on 20 barangays. This city has 40 urban and 40 upland barangays.


As of 4 a.m. today, The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) spotted the eye of Typhoon Pablo at 700 km southeast of Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur with maximum winds of 175 kph and gusts of 210 kph. It has an estimated rate of rainfall of 20 to 30 mm/hr within a diameter of 600 km.


“It is forecast to move west-northwest at 24 kph and expected to be at 175 km east of Hinatuan by Tuesday morning. By Wednesday morning, Pablo is expected to be at 80 km south of Ilo-ilo City and at 280 km northwest of Puerto Princesa on Thursday morning,” Pagasa said in its latest bulletin based on data from its monitoring station based in neighboring El Salvador City in Misamis Oriental.


This city, as well as the rest of Misamis Oriental, are among areas where Public Storm Signal No. 1 was hoisted. The other provinces in Mindanao under Signal No. 1 are Surigao del Norte (including the islands of Siargao and Dinagat), Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, the rest of Davao Oriental, Davao del Norte (including Samal Island), Compostela Valley, Bukidnon, Misamis Occidental, Misamis Oriental, Camiguin, Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur. Meanwhile, Pagasa issued Signal No. 2 in Surigao del Sur and the northern part of Davao Oriental.


Engr. Armen Cuenca, assistant CDRRMC officer, said that as early as Friday, City Hall has prepared some 800 sacks of rice in preparation for the evacuation that is expected here Monday night.


“Unlike what our detractors have been claiming, the CDRRMC conducts regular meetings,” said Cuenca.


By Sunday afternoon, volunteers and City Hall employees were busy packing relief goods at the City Tourism Hall, the designated CDRRMC command center.


Cuenca said that should Pablo flood the City Tourism Hall, the alternative command center sites are Camp Nicholas Capistrano, headquarters of the Police Regional Public Safety Battalion in Barangay Gusa, and the office of the Oro Chamber of Commerce and Trade in Pueblo de Oro, Upper Carmen, which will serve the eastern and western side, respectively, of the city.


He said that they have also prepared evacuation sites. The covered courts of Barangays 24, 40, Camaman-an, Indahag, Lapasan and Agusan will serve as evacuation sites for people in the eastern side of the city. For the western side of the city, the evacuation sites are Zones 6 and 10 of Barangay Carmen, Patag, Kauswagan, Bulua, Iponan and Xavier Estates Subdivision in Upper Carmen.


A firetruck and city-owned vehicle, rigged with a public announcement system, went around the city announcing the latest bulletin of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa).


In Consolacion, residents have packed their belongings, stowed away their appliances and important documents. Others have opted to send their children to their relatives who live in higher areas of the city.


“I simply refuse to be a calamity victim again,” Clifford Huerbana said Sunday night while packing enough clothes and essentials for three days.


Like Huerbana, most of the residents of Consolacion, a barangay along Cagayan River, said they will voluntarily evacuate their homes once CDRRMC raises the alert code to red.


In another hardly-hit community last year, residents of Villa Angela in Barangay Balulang are also amenable to the voluntary evacuation plan of the CDRRMC.


Sendong survivor Dino Roble said in an interview Sunday evening that their neighborhood started preparing for the super typhoon since Saturday morning when the CDRRMC declared a code blue on the city, especially the flood-prone barangays. (Cong B. Corrales / MindaNews)