'Disaster imagination' to help prepare communities for disaster: Solidum

Aleta Nieva-Nishimori, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 18 2018 07:56 PM | Updated as of Sep 18 2018 09:14 PM

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MANILA - Despite warnings, many were still caught off guard when typhoon Ompong unleashed its fury in Northern Luzon.

"Yung iba talaga nahirapang ma-imagine ang posibleng mangyari sa kanila at kung nasabihan mang may threat, kung saan sila i-evacuate at minsan ay nagde-decide na lang na manatili," said Disaster Risk Reduction Undersecretary Renato Solidum in an interview on DZMM Tuesday.

Around a hundred volunteers are helping in the search for dozens feared trapped after a landslide buried an emergency shelter in Itogon, Benguet on Saturday.

Solidum said many still could not understand the importance of the concept of disaster imagination that would help them come up with plans for the safety of their communities.

"Madalas yung pangyayari ay hindi pa nila na-experience. 'Yun po ang kailangan nating ipakita, ma-imagine nila mismo anong mangyayari sa kanilang mga bahay, mga workplace kung sakaling mangyari itong landslide, matatabunan ba bahay ko? Saan mas ligtas," he said.

[Sometimes they could not imagine or that they have not experienced a disaster. We need to let them know what might happen to them in case, that their houses or workplaces will be buried if a landslide happens.]

Solidum said the amount of rainfall that Ompong dumped in Northern Luzon was more than enough to trigger landslides.

"Ang threshold ng landslide ang kailangan mo lang 100 mm to 200 mm of rains in one day...so talagang tuloy-tuloy na ulan sa isang araw pa lang posibleng nang magka-landslide," he said.

[The landslide threshold is you need about 100 mm to 200 mm of rains in one day...so if it was raining non-stop, in just a day, a landslide would be possible.]

The rainfall amount from both Ompong and previous tropical depression Neneng was more than 700 mm, Solidum said.

"Kung ang lugar ay ginagamit sa livelihood pero ito ay napakadelikado, sana yung mga bahay ay malayo sa lugar," Solidum said.

[If your working area is dangerous, you should not be living nearby.]

Days before the storm hit, Solidum said the Mines and Geosciences Bureau and the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) have repeatedly warned that landslides and flooding were possible in areas with high rainfall amount.

While the local government evacuated many residents, there were still some who opted to stay to take care of their livelihood and houses.

"Pero sa ganitong pagkakataon, kailangang mga residente talaga ay maunawaan na ito'y para sa kanilang kaligtasan," he said.

[In these instances, residents must understand that forced evacuation is for their own good.]

Solidum said in disaster preparedness, the responsibility also lies in community participation. He said local governments should implement a program on landslide community-based preparedness to involve residents who may be affected when disaster strikes.

Solidum said the local government and the community should participate in assessing disasters long before it hits and not only focus on rescue response operations.

Ompong, the strongest storm in the world so far this year, ripped through northern Luzon over the weekend, leaving a trail of destruction and killing scores in its path.

Police said the number of people who died in the onslaught of Ompong in Luzon has climbed to 74, while at least 55 more remain missing.

Itogon, Benguet sustained the most casualties, after a mining settlement was hit by landslides.

Authorities said chances of finding survivors beneath the rubble are now slim as it has been days since the incident.