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EDITORIAL - Disaster resilience

Typhoon Nona made landfall yesterday, hitting Bicol, the Samar provinces and Masbate as it barreled westward. Thousands were evacuated and classes were suspended as the weather bureau warned that heavy rains brought by Nona could trigger deadly landslides and torrential flooding.

Provinces along the country’s eastern seaboard have the misfortune of often serving as the welcome mat for the tropical cyclones that hit the country regularly. The Bicol region, Masbate, Samar and Leyte as well as northeastern Luzon are particularly vulnerable. For these areas, disaster resilience must be given high priority.

About two years ago, President Aquino told agencies involved in disaster relief and mitigation efforts to embrace a zero-casualty policy during typhoons. Months later, Super Typhoon Yolanda struck, leaving up to 10,000 dead, according to a police official who was sacked for announcing that estimate of the storm’s toll.

The President’s order might have seemed like bragging, but having no typhoon casualties is a goal that everyone must aim for, especially in the areas where Pacific cyclones often make landfall.

Technology has made weather forecasting more accurate, and the weather bureau issues sufficient warnings about approaching typhoons. Local governments in particular must mobilize agencies and communities for timely evacuation. The nation has suffered the fury of apocalyptic storm surges and freak floods from denuded watersheds. Mudslides triggered by incessant rains buried an entire town in Southern Leyte in 2006 and destroyed the Cherry Hills Subdivision in Antipolo in 1999.

You can’t stop a typhoon or storm surge, but it’s possible to save communities from the brunt of nature’s fury. Some local governments such as the one in Albay are showing what disaster resilience means. Lives, property and livelihoods can be saved with efficient preparedness.

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In the age of global warming, people may never be fully prepared for extreme weather disturbances. But those who give priority to disaster preparedness have a better chance of surviving nature’s worst. Typhoon Nona should give a good indication of which areas have developed disaster resilience.

 

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