Renato Solidum, DOST undersecretary for disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation, maintained that concerned government agencies did not lack in issuing advisories. PIA, File
MANILA, Philippines — Several days before Typhoon Vinta (international name Tembin) wreaked havoc in Mindanao, killing more than 200 people, local executives had been warned of flashfloods and landslides due to continuous heavy rain, an official of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) said yesterday.
Renato Solidum, DOST undersecretary for disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation, maintained that concerned government agencies did not lack in issuing advisories.
Solidum said the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) recommended the evacuation of people in areas along Vinta’s path days before it made landfall over Cateel, Davao Oriental.
\The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), an attached agency of the DOST and part of the NDRRMC, had presented Vinta’s track and rainfall forecast, which served as basis for the Mines and Geosciences Bureau in identifying the areas highly prone to floods and landslides, Solidum said.
PAGASA weather division chief Esperanza Cayanan gave emphasis on the possible flooding and landslides in Mindanao that could be triggered by Vinta.
“Several days prior to the landfall of Vinta, meetings were done at the NDRRMC to prepare for it,” Solidum told The STAR. “There was a decision to recommend evacuation in the areas highly prone to floods and landslides.”
]The weather bureau regularly provided information on Vinta’s track and rainfall projection, the DOST official said.
“Community involvement is critical in all preparedness efforts. Evacuation planning and drills are needed,” Solidum said.
Office of the Civil Defense regional director Manuel Luis Ochotorena earlier said people did not heed the call to leave, which resulted in the high number of the dead and missing.
Hundreds of lives could have been saved had the government utilized existing weather forecasting technology and data, according to disaster scientist Mahar Lagmay.
Lagmay, head of the University of the Philippines NOAH Center, said there are available technology that could provide near-real time information for specific areas affected by a typhoon.
He said near-real time information is different from weather forecasts as it takes into account various data, including hazard maps that can provide projected scenarios hours before these happen.
“When we were part of the NDRRMC, this is what we used to do,” Lagmay told The STAR yesterday.
“We interpret data from sensors and satellites and provide hazard-specific, area-focus and time-bound information that can be passed on to local government units,” he added.
NOAH or the Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards was part of the NDRRMC’s Pre-Disaster Risk Assessment until earlier this year when the government stopped funding for the DOST.
UP has adopted the NOAH project.
Several governments and international organizations have expressed their condolences to the Philippines amid the death and destruction caused by storms Urduja (Kai-tak) and Vinta over the Christmas holidays.
Representatives of the United States, Japan and China expressed their sympathies in separate statements.
“Heartfelt sympathies to the loved ones of the victims of Tropical Storm Vinta. My thoughts and prayers are with them in this difficult time,” US Ambassador Sung Kim said in a tweet.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe assured President Duterte that Japan would provide assistance to the victims of Vinta.
Abe and Foreign Minister Taro Kono sent messages to Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, extending their condolences to the Philippines and those affected by the storm.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi also sympathized with the Philippines.
“Tropical Storm Vinta recently hit the Philippines and caused severe casualties and property losses, making a lot of people displaced. I would like to extend my heartfelt sympathy to Your Honorable on the tragic disaster,” Wang said in his message to Cayetano.
“I am convinced that, under the leadership of the Philippine government, the people of the affected areas are bound to overcome the disaster and restore their normal livelihoods at an earliest date,” Wang added.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said relief goods would be sent to areas affected by Vinta.
“Our heart goes out to the children and families affected by the storm,” Lotta Sylwander, head of UNICEF operations in the Philippines, said.
State of calamity
The provincial government has placed Lanao del Norte under a state of calamity following the death and devastation left by Vinta.
The provincial board made the decision during a special session on Dec. 24 following severe flooding in different towns across the province.
The state of calamity authorizes the provincial government to use the remaining available funds for the year for relief operations.
A five percent calamity fund will be used by the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) to augment funds to address the immediate needs of the flooded municipalities: Maigo, Salvador, Kauswagan, Tubod, Kapatagan, Bacolod and Kolambugan.
Zamboanga del Norte and Zamboanga del Sur were also placed under a state of calamity.
The Office of the Civil Defense said the areas under state of calamity are Leon Postigo, Gutalac, Salug, Labason, Baliguian, Siocon, Sirawai, and Sibuco in Zamboanga del Norte and Tambulig town and some villages in Zamboanga del Sur.
As the death toll from severe tropical storm Vinta continued to climb to 240 on Monday, the NDRRMC has yet to release financial assistance to the affected families.
The NDRRMC said over 170 people remain missing.
As mandated by law, families of calamity victims are entitled to receive financial help from the government: P10,000 for each fatality, P5,000 for injured victims and P30,000 for those whose houses were destroyed.
“We still have remaining funds for those affected by the storms but with only a few days before the year ends, we don’t know if these will be enough. That’s why we are coordinating with the Department of Budget and Management,” Romina Marasigan, spokesperson for the NDRRMC, said.
She said government financial assistance to calamity victims would only be released once documentation is completed and duly validated by the Department of the Interior and Local Government.
Vinta ravaged Mindanao, particularly the provinces of Zamboanga del Norte and Lanao del Norte.
PAL airlifts relief goods
Flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) is helping the government in bringing relief goods to areas in Mindanao affected by Vinta.
PAL spokesperson and chief information officer Ma. Cielo Villaluna said the airline brought the relief items totalling 13,306 kilograms for free.
The supplies included ready-to-eat food, water containers, water purifyng tablets, plastic mats, mosquito nets and blankets.
“PAL utilized Airbus 340 fleet for Manila-Davao flights to ensure cargo space for the relief goods,” Villaluna said.
She said upon arrival in Davao City, the goods were transferred to trucks of the Department of Social Welfare and Development before transporting these for distribution to the residents of Lanao del Norte.
PAL’s assistance was made through the efforts of its president Jimmy Bautista, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board spokesperson Aileen Lizada and Capt. Skee Tamayo of the Department of Transportation.
Tagle appeals for help
Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle yesterday appealed to the faithful to help the victims of the two storms that hit the country.
Tagle urged the people to become instruments of God and extend kindness to Filipinos in the Visayas and Mindanao who have been affected by Vinta and Urduja.
Marawi Bishop Edwin dela Peña also appealed for help for the storm victims in Lanao del Sur and Lanao del Norte.
“We appeal for rice, noodles, canned goods and used clothing. God spared us from this calamity so that we can help those in need,” he said.
The Philippine Red Cross (PRC) appealed for assistance to help the more than 500,000 people affected by Vinta.
PRC chairman and Sen. Richard Gordon made the appeal as the number of deas and missing people from the flashfloods and landslides that struck parts of Mindanao continued to rise. – Janvic Mateo, Pia Lee-Brago, Jaime Laude, Lino de la Cruz, Roel Pareño, Rudy Santos, Evelyn Macairan, Non Alquitran