With lessons learned from Sendong and Pablo, Mindanao prepares for Yolanda

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 7 November) – Obviously learning lessons from the disasters wrought by typhoon Sendong in 2011 and super typhoon Pablo in 2012, local government units in Mindanao, particularly in Northern Mindanao, the Caraga and Davao regions, are quicker now in preparing for typhoons such as Yolanda.

Download larger file.
Download larger file. Mindanews Graphics by Keith Bacongco


According to the Severe Weather Bulletin No. 3 issued by the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), Yolanda was, at 11 a.m., located at 637 km East of Hinatuan, Surigao Del Sur or 738 km Southeast of Guiuan, Eastern Samar, packing maximum sustained winds of 215 kilometers per hour (kph) near the center and gustiness of up to 250 kph, moving at 30 kph.

When super typhoon Pablo made landfall in Baganga, Davao Oriental at 4 a.m. December 4, 2012, it packed maximum sustained winds of 175 kph near the center and gustiness of up to 210 kph, moving at 26 kph, according to PAGASA records.

Public storm warning signals have been raised over seven of Mindanao’s 26 provinces – Signal 1 over Dinagat Islands province and Siargao Island (part of Surigao del Norte); Signal 2 over Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur, Agusan del Norte and Camiguin; and Signal 1 over Misamis Oriental and Agusan del Sur.

Classes have been suspended in Cagayan de Oro and Misamis Oriental towns, in the Agusan and Surigao provinces and in Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental. The last two were the worst hit provinces when Pablo made landfall in Baganga, Davao Oriental, early morning of December 4, 2012.

In Compostela Valley, Governor Arturo Uy told MindaNews that the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC) and the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Councils (MDRRMCs) have been activated, rescuers as well as heavy equipment and dump trucks are on standby, and a stockpile of food prepared.

Uy said small-scale mining operations have been ordered suspended.

He urged residents to remain vigilant as heavy rains are expected and may lead to floods or landslides.

Preemptive evacuation

In New Bataan, which posted the highest death toll of about 400 out of 1,000 dead nationwide from Pablo’s wrath last year, Marlon Esperanza, the municipal information officer, told MindaNews they convened on Wednesday afternoon the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (MDRRMC) which then urged all barangay DRRMCSs to “activate and initiate preparedness in their respective barangays” such as enforcing preemptive evacuation of families in high-risk areas especially near the river bank.

“Rescue teams and volunteers are now on stand by at the command post,” said Esperanza.

In Davao Oriental, Governor Corazon Malanyaon said meetings have been conducted in preparation for Yolanda. Super typhoon Pablo made landfall in Baganga town early morning of December 4, 2012.

In Misamis Oriental, as of 9 a.m. Thursday, 772 families or 4,305 persons from the towns of Medina, Libertad, Opol, Alubjid, Claveria, Jasaan, Villanueva, Tagoloan, Lagonglong and Binuangan, have been moved to safer grounds as officials implemented preemptive evacuation in flood-prone and landslide-prone areas.

In Iligan City, the disaster response teams are also ready for any eventuality. Iligan and Cagayan de Oro cities were the worst hit when typhoon Sendong hit these areas on December 16-17, 2011.

In Surigao City, travel by sea has been prohibited since Wednesday and the bancas docked along the boulevard have been moved to a safer place.

In Butuan, city and provincial officials are preparing for worst-case scenarios as the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) and the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) there said the possibility that Yolanda may hit landfall in the region comprising the two Agusans and two Surigaos, should not be ruled out (Read  other story).

Flights to and from Butuan and Surigao have been cancelled.

In Bukidnon, classes have also been suspended in the first district, even as no storm warning signal has been raised over Bukidnon. Governor Jose Ma. Zubiri ordered the suspension of classes as of 10 a.m. in anticipation of heavy rains, said Hansel Echavez, chief of the Provincial Public Affairs, Information and Assistance (PAIA) office.

Echavez said Zubiri made a verbal declaration even if Bukidnon is not placed under any typhoon signal by the Pagasa weather bureau because of their proximity to Cagayan de Oro City and Misamis Oriental, which the weather bureau placed under storm signal no. 1 (Read other story).

Lessons from Sendong, Pablo

Cagayan de Oro posted “zero casualty” when typhoon Pablo struck last year as preemptive measures were carried out. In 2011, of the 1,268 killed in Visayas and Mindanao, Cagayan de Oro posted the highest at 734.

Compostela Valley’s Governor Uy admitted in a media forum in Tagum City on January 17 that Pablo taught them so many lessons so they allocated P2 million “to capacitate (our people) through trainings, equipment” to improve their disaster preparedness. Raul Villocino of the PDRRMC said last year’s budget for trainings was only P950,000.

“We learned so many lessons,” Uy told the Kapihan sa ComVal, as he noted that it was the first time the province experienced a typhoon.

He said they “did prepare” for the typhoon, put in place an evacuation program, but “we came up short admittedly.”

The governor acknowledged the need to assess and evaluate their disaster preparedness “dahil napakarami palang kakulangan. Medyo kalat tayo” (because we are inadequate. We’re disorganized). (Carolyn O. Arguillas, Froilan Gallardo, Erwin Mascarinas, Walter Balane and Violeta M. Gloria / MindaNews)