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Opinion

The Philippines' worst and deadliest disasters  

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez - The Freeman

Nature is hitting back at humanity. Super typhoon Karding reminded us again that man's devastation of the environment is now reaping the natural consequences. Nature's fury is hitting humanity with a vengeance, through a series of blows that can cause multiple deaths and tremendous losses and damage to property. But people never learn.

As prophesied in Deuteronomy (31:17), "And in that day I will become angry with them and forsake them; I will hide my face from them, and they will be destroyed. Many disasters and calamities will come on them, and in that day they will ask, ‘Have not these disasters come on us because our God is not with us?’” The Philippines is among the most disaster-prone countries in the world, and we should reflect deeply on the causes and consequences. For the longest time, the Philippines has been battered, devastated, and thousands have been killed, but government failed to train their constituents on the science of disaster preparedness. Filipinos are more interested in planning for beauty pageants and sporting events than for disasters and calamities.

The deadliest typhoon that ever hit our country, as recorded by the books of natural disasters, was Haiphong from Sept. 27 to Oct. 6, 1881. It killed more than 20,000 people and injured hundreds of thousands. Hurricane Haiyan or Yolanda, which devastated the Eastern Visayas and other areas, from Nov. 7 to 8, 2013, was our country's second worst, killing no less than 6,241, based only on the number of dead bodies. But many people say it may have been 10,000 if we included those missing until now. Yolanda was the one that the whole world came to know because of the access to modern technology and social media.

The other deadly typhoons include Thelma (Uring), which killed 5,956 from Nov. 2 to 7, 1991; Pablo with 1,901 dead from Dec. 2 to 9, 2012; Angela, which killed 1,800 from Sept. 20 to 26, 1867; Winnie which killed 1,593 from Nov. 27 to 30, 2004; Frank which killed 1,501 from June 18 to 23, 2008, an unnamed typhoon hit the country from Oct. 7 to 16, 1897 and caused the death of 1,500 people; Nitang from Aug. 31 to Sept. 4, 1984 killing 1,492, and Reming with a mortality of 1,399 from Nov. 29 to Dec. 1, 2006. People died because from drowning, falling trees, rocks, and collapsing structures. The houses are not built to withstand super cyclones and hurricanes and the locations of communities and settlements have not been planned to protect lives and properties.

Based on the amount of damage caused to properties, the worst typhoon to hit the Philippines was Pablo causing damages worth no less than ?42.2 billion. Damage caused by Yolanda was P35.5 billion; Pepeng from Sept. 27 to Oct. 14, 2009 was P27.3 billion; Pedring from Sept. 26 to 28, 2011, P15 billion; Frank, ?13.5 billion; Ondoy from Sept. 25 to 27 2009, ?P11 billion. Ruping caused P10.8 billion damage from Nov. 10 to 14, 1990; Rosing, also ?10.8 billion from Oct. 30 to Nov. 4, 1995; Kadiang caused damage worth P8.75 billion from Oct. 2 to 6, 1993, and Juan from Oct. 10 to 12, 2010, P8.32 billion. All these are natural calamities could not have been prevented, but the extent of losses could have been mitigated had the government planned well and the people been more prepared.

PAGASA has drawn a disaster map which identifies the five most typhoon-prone months, and these are July, August, September, October, and November, with June and December not being far behind. Knowing this and knowing the patterns indicated by history, officials of national agencies and LGUs should be ready with their Disaster Preparedness Plans. Typhoons can hit us 10 times more before Christmas. We should start to learn how to prepare.

DISASTER

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