How Noah warned Marikina of impending disaster

By Ira Pedrasa,

Posted at Aug 09 2012 05:58 PM | Updated as of Aug 10 2012 02:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines - At 2 a.m. Thursday, a loud siren woke up tired residents of Marikina City.

It was a signal for them to evacuate as sensors warned of the impending rise of the water level of Marikina River, which could cause flash floods in low-lying areas.

In an interview with ANC, Dr. Alfredo Mahar Francisco Lagmay, head of the Project Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards (Project NOAH), said their systems already noticed water level at the Sto. Nino station rising to 18.83 meters at around 12:20 a.m., which is already at the critical level.

“[And then] we noticed that around 1:00 or 1:30 a.m., the peak in the record of the water level in the upper watershed in the Montalban station was already around 28.14 meters, which is higher than the water levels in the past few days,” he said.

He said Marikina is a flood plain, a part of the river system. He said that when the river banks swell, it will spill into the flood plains.

“We were expecting the waters to flow down [from Montalban] and make the rivers swell once more,” he said.

When the alarm went off, residents in the most critical areas in the city such as Malanday and Tumana were told to seek higher ground.

Flooding was also reported in Provident Village, one of the hardest-hit villages during tropical storm Ondoy's onslaught in 2009.

Use Project Noah

Lagmay urged local government units and residents to make Project Noah a part of their lifestyle.

“We want Filipinos to make it a part of their system and develop a culture of safety by incorporating science and [with the] advise of the government,” he said.

As seen on its website, Project Noah monitors storm tracks, the amount of rainfall in a particular area, the water level in the nearest river, as well as how high the flood will be in one’s home.  It intends to provide in a few years’ time high-resolution flood hazard maps and install 600 automated rain gauges and 400 water level measuring stations for 18 major river basins of the Philippines.

Lagmay said disaster only happens “when people are in harm’s way.” He said “natural disasters, floodings…have always been there.”

Lagmay said the lead-time now is very short for disaster-prevention.

Similar to the Marikina warning this morning via the help of Project Noah, “we have to empower the LGUs…in order for them to have a good basis for their decisions,” he said.