Scientist sees more 'Sendong'-like storms in south

by David Dizon,

Posted at Dec 19 2011 06:14 PM | Updated as of Dec 20 2011 04:12 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Visayas and Mindanao should brace for more storms in the years to come due to the climate change phenomenon, a professor of the University of the Philippines' National Institute of Geological Sciences (UP-NIGS) warned Monday.

UP Professor Dr. Mahar Lagmay said the onslaught of tropical storm Sendong (international codename Washi) in parts of Visayas and Mindanao is consistent with previous predictions that storms would affect central Philippines.

"One of the predictions of climate change is that there will be intense storms or rainfall related to storms. Another prediction of the climate change phenomenon is that typhoons are going more into a centerly trend in terms of the Philippine archipelago. The middle part instead of the north," he told ANC's "Dateline Philippines."

He said meteorologists have long warned about more intense rainfall and typhoon tracks hitting Visayas region as a result of climate change.

More than 600 people were killed after heavy rains brought by Sendong caused flash floods in parts of the Visayas and Mindanao.

Heavy rainfall

Benito Ramos, executive director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, earlier said Sendong brought 181 mm of rain in Cagayan de Oro, which is higher than the average of 99.9 mm for the month.

Lagmay, meanwhile, said Cagayan de Oro has a watershed area of 1,521 square kilometers, or 3 times larger than the Marikina watershed.

He said that while the watershed area could absorb higher levels of rainfall, the rainfall would usually accumulate in the Cagayan de Oro river and hit settlements near the riverbanks.

Lagmay said residents were caught by surprise by the severity of the flood especially since it struck past midnight.

"I think they knew the rains were coming. I don't think they knew that it would cause that much flood but even if they knew, it happened very early in the morning, the people did not know where to evacuate in the middle of the night. Probably the months or weeks before, the local government should have done drills to get the people to know what to do just in case this event happens. It's very rare but it can kill," he said.

Needed: Maps

The UP-NIGS professor said the national government is allocating P1.6 billion in a project that would generate high-resolution topographic maps that would show simulations of flood events in different parts of the country.

He, however, added that flood maps are just a first step in developing a culture of safety for Filipinos.

"We need to develop a culture of safety. It's not enough that we have scientists doing the maps.  Not enough that we have Internet technology and media to develop the maps and disseminate information. It needs to come from people themselves. They need to do the work and due diligence even if government does all the work and puts all the funds to make these maps," he said.