Deforestation blamed for 'Sendong' tragedy

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 19 2011 10:52 PM | Updated as of Dec 20 2011 06:10 PM

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY - Denuded mountains and forests are being cited as some of the causes behind the flash floods that devastated Cagayan de Oro City, Iligan City, and other parts northern Mindanao over the weekend.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said the Cagayan de Oro River failed to hold the huge amount of rainfall brought by tropical storm Sendong that eventually poured into the 2 low-lying cities.

Sendong's rainfall was about 15 to 20 millimeters per hour, or about half the amount of rainfall of tropical storm Ondoy, according to state weather bureau PAGASA.

Because there were no trees on the mountains of Bukidnon, water easily flowed down the slopes.

The Cagayan de Oro river also swelled.

Macajalar Bay usually serves as the outlet of the water.

However, since it was also high tide that day, water accumulated, which triggered the massive flashfloods.

"Catchment basin, parang palanggana. Aapaw yan pag napuno dahil mababa," said DENR Assistant Secretary Marlo Mendoza.

The DENR said communities hit hard by Sendong are areas that were earlier declared dangerous due to possible flashfloods.

The agency added that in 2009, it already recommended residents to relocate to another area.

"They have to seriously consider the geo-hazard map or else mauulit ito pag di sinunod," said DENR Undersecretary Ernesto Adobo.

"Kaya lang nauna na ang mga komunidad dito kaya mahirap ilikas," said Mines and Geosciences Bureau chief geologist Dr. Sevillo David Jr.

The DENR also believes that climate change also played a role in the Sendong tragedy.

It is urging local government units to prepare and install an early warning system to save lives in the future. - report from Jing Castañeda, ABS-CBN News