'Gabaldon a disaster that did not happen', scientist says

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 23 2015 01:04 AM | Updated as of Oct 23 2015 11:01 AM

MANILA - The effects of Typhoon Lando on the town of Gabaldon in Nueva Ecija can be compared to what happened in New Bataan, Compostela Valley in 2012 when it was hit by Typhoon Pablo, a scientist said.

Dr. Mahar Lagmay of Project NOAH (Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) has posted TV Patrol images of the typhoon's effect on Gabaldon.

In his caption on Facebook, Lagmay said Gabaldon is a "disaster that did not happen," because people evacuated early.

"Barangay Andap in New Bataan, Compostela Valley was buried in 2012 by debris flows of Typhoon Pablo, resulting in more than 500 deaths. Typhoon Lando did the same, spawning debris flows that overwhelmed Brgy. Calabasa, Gabaldon, Nueva Ecija (population: 922 - based on 2010 census). This time, pre-emptive evacuation guided by specific warnings in potential debris flow paths averted a disaster. We call it a 'disaster that did not happen,'" Lagmay said.

Brgy. Andap in New Bataan, Compostela Valley was buried in 2012 by debris flows of Typhoon Pablo, resulting in more than...

Posted by Mahar Lagmay on Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Several local government agencies, especially in landslide and flood-prone areas, ordered preemptive evacuation before Lando made landfall.

According to Lagmay, Project NOAH uses a system to monitor the amount of rainfall in different municipalities. They provide Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) with a list of municipalities that are expected to experience more than 100 millimeters of rain. DILG informs concerned municipalities a day or two in advance to give them time to prepare for hazards associated with strong rains.

"When 200 millimeter of rain was seen being delivered upstream of Gabaldon, NDRRMC (National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council) again warned the LGU of Gabaldon. The second warning is again based on the system being used by PDRA (Pre-Disaster Risk Assessment Team), where NDRRMC calls the LGU whenever there is real time observation of rainfall greater than 100 millimeter," Lagmay explained.

"Based on experience from previous events, tagging in near real-time those places that experience extreme rains as seen from the accumulated rainfall maps of NOAH, gives the downstream communities 3 hours to as much as 6 hours to evacuate. LGUs of Gabaldon and adjacent areas were informed of the real-time observations of the heavy rains and were asked by NDRRMC either through DILG Sec. Sarmiento or Usec. Pama, or Marissa Lerias (Executive Director of the League of Municipalites) to forcibly evacuate," he added.

For Lagmay, it was fortunate that DILG Secretary Sarmiento, NDRRMC Executive Director Alexander Pama, as well as the executive director of the League of Municipalities were present while scientists from Project NOAH were discussing their observations, making communication faster and more efficient.

He added that the mayor of Gabaldon did the right thing in ordering forced evacuation.

"I am still not sure when exactly the mayor of Gabaldon evacuated the people but the mayor certainly did the right thing," Lagmay said.

The typhoon was packing maximum sustained winds of 185 kilometers per hour (kph) near the center and gusts of up to 220 kph before it hit Casiguran, Aurora at 1 a.m. Sunday.

Residents of Gabaldon, located near the Sierra Madre mountain range, suffered from landslides and flash floods during the height of Lando's wrath. The town, which was left isolated as the typhoon lashed at the province, became a scene of disaster, with mud, boulders and trees covering its streets and rice fields.

On Monday, Mayor Rolando Bue told ABS-CBN News that a huge portion of a mountain eroded and caused rocks, mud and trees to cover houses and rice fields in the town.

Barangay Andap in New Bataan, Compostela Valley, also suffered a similar fate when Typhoon Pablo hit the country on December 2012. It packed gusts reaching 314 kilometers per hour

Almost all the towns in the province were severely affected by "Pablo," with most deaths in the town of New Bataan.

Of the 16 barangays of New Bataan, Bgy. Andap suffered the most from the typhoon. The whole community was washed away when boulders, logs, and mud from the mountains came crashing down, destroying everything on their path and leaving 70 dead, 63 injured, and 281 missing.

Boulders cover what was once a residential area in Barangay Andap, New Bataan in Compostela Valley. Photo by Fernando Sepe Jr., ABS-CBNNews.com

More than 1,000 people were killed, while 834 others went missing. The devastation it caused prompted state weather bureau PAGASA to retire "Pablo" from its list of storm names.

READ: A Tale of Three Disasters

Lando has left at least 54 dead, as of posting.