Philippines tops in storm-related deaths

by Jojo Malig,

Posted at Jun 13 2013 07:41 PM | Updated as of Jun 14 2013 04:04 AM

MANILA - The Philippines felt the brunt of the world's deadliest storms for two straight years. How prepared is the country this rainy season?

In 2011, tropical storm "Sendong" (international name Washi) hit the Philippines, leaving 1,257 dead.

In terms of number of fatalities, the storm was the most destructive worldwide, according to insurance broker AON Benfield.

Flood spawned by tropical storm Sendong (Washi) in 2011.

Sendong, which struck Northern Mindanao, the Visayas, and Palawan, also caused economic losses of $31.7 million.

A year later, the world's deadliest storm also occurred in the Philippines, with Typhoon Pablo (Super Typhoon Bopha) causing havoc in Mindanao.

Pablo, which was classified as a Category 5 super typhoon by international foreign weather agencies, left more than 1,900 people dead or missing in southern Philippines.

It caused economic losses amounting to more than $1 billion, AON Benfield's annual risk assessment report for 2012 said.

Destruction left behind by typhoon Pablo (super typhoon Bopha)

Annually, around 19 tropical cyclones enter the Philippine Area Of Responsibility, and between 6 to 9 make landfall, according to a US Naval Research Laboratory report.

The World Bank, in a June 3, 2013 report that aims to guide governments in setting policies for disaster risk management, said the Philippines is highly exposed to disasters, with an estimated 74 percent of the population vulnerable to natural hazards.

It has engaged the Philippine government in reforming its disaster risk management programs, including the development of a flood management master plan for Metro Manila.

The Philippines has already shifted attention from post-disaster response to prevention and mitigation, according to the World Bank.

It added that the country's disaster risk assessment capabilities are improving. This includes disaster modeling of floods and tropical cyclones that allows measurement of possible losses from future disasters.

The World Bank said among the lessons learned by the Philippines in previous years is this: Do not wait for a disaster to happen.

"Reform the policy and action framework on disaster risk management and invest in preparedness," it added.

"Governments need to be prepared for the unexpected and undertake major investments in disaster risk management and resilience," World Bank East Asia and Pacific Vice-President Axel van Trotsenburg said. "In doing so, they should make disaster risk management part of poverty alleviation and sustainable development because the poor are disproportionately affected by disasters."

On Tuesday, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) reiterated its zero casualty target this rainy season.

It remains to be seen if the target will be met.