Dam operator showed 'lack of anticipation' in Cagayan flooding: analyst

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 18 2020 11:12 AM

Screencap of a video with Magat Dam releasing water days after Typhoon Ulysses passed Luzon on November 13, 2020. Cagayan PIO

MANILA - There was a "lack of anticipation" on the part of Magat Dam operators that resulted in historic flooding in Cagayan, the head of a University of the Philippines think tank said Wednesday.

At least 9 fatalities were earlier reported in the province following Typhoon Ulysses' onslaught, while Cagayan Valley has recorded a total of 24 deaths as of Tuesday.

The dam's water release while Cagayan River was swelling from heavy rainfall from nearby provinces contributed to the massive flooding, an official of the National Irrigation Authority earlier admitted.

Dam operators could have used the state weather bureau's "more or less accurate" forecast to prepare for the dam's water release, said Mahar Lagmay, executive director of the UP Resilience Institute.

"Although this needs to be checked and rechecked this is very preliminary, to me there was a lack of anticipation... Again, this is very preliminary but from the data that I’ve been seeing, forecast of the rainfall amount could be used to release a certain amount of discharge that is not 6,000 plus cubic meters per second," he told ANC's Headstart.

"You could have spread it over time and began a significant amount of release much earlier."

The NIA has since met to revisit its protocols, dam and reservoir division manager Eduardo Ramos earlier said.

"There’s also a danger in the dam collapsing and that’s the reason why they released it (water). We have a protocol and according to NIA they followed it. I agree, perhaps that dam protocol should be revisited," Lagmay said.

"Especially with the climate change projections, there are some scientists who say the rains will become intensified or will be more frequent. We really have to improve or make good our forecast and use it to plan ahead discharge, not during the time when water is already high."

All disaster risk reduction efforts are vital which is why the University of the Philippines adopted storm hazard warning system Project NOAH, according to Lagmay.

The project spawned online buzz over the weekend after typhoon Ulysses swamped vast swaths of Luzon. 

"It’s not only the warning days before or hours before that’s important. It’s about capacity building, knowledge building, communication. It’s building a community that is resilient, that has a culture of safety," Lagmay said.

"Each and every effort must be considered as long as it’s scientific, logical, it must be welcomed by everybody."

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