Evacuate before sunset, residents told

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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But local officials say residents remain 'hesitant' to evacuate because of the sunny weather

Photo of Typhoon Pablo courtesy of NASA

MANILA, Philippines – Evacuate while there is time – and sunlight. 

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) on Monday afternoon, December 3, urged residents who need to evacuate to do so before sunset. Disaster officials made this call as Typhoon Pablo maintained its strength while it was expected to make landfall in Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur by Tuesday morning, December 4.

Prompt evacuation is expected to drastically lower the casualties compared to the deaths brought about by Tropical Storm Sendong, which battered and inundated communities while people remained asleep one night in December 2011. (Watch more about Sendong below)

“Kailangan ng preemptive evacuation habang may araw pa. Mahirap magpadala ng rescue kapag madilim na, kasi automatic ang shut-off ng power ng National Grid Corporation of the Philippines kapag nakataas na ang Typhoon Signal No. 3,” said NDRRMC Operations Center head Edgardo Ollet in a press conference. 

(We need preemptive evacuation while there is sunlight. It is difficult to deploy rescue teams when it is dark, because the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines automatically shuts off power once Typhoon Signal No. 3 is raised.)

But the “big problem,” according to Ollet, is some residents’ hesitation to evacuate while the storm has not directly hit their communities.

Nevertheless, he said communities in Surigao del Sur, Siargao, Dinagat Islands, and Davao Oriental, among others, have already prepared for preemptive evacuation. He said the NDRRMC is awaiting confirmation if evacuation has indeed taken place in these communities.

‘Hesitant’ residents

In Hinatuan, which is expected to be hardest hit by Pablo, officials have begun to evacuate residents. But according to Amado Posas, the Caraga region’s operations chief for the Office of Civil Defense (OCD), a number of residents have refused to leave their houses.

“They’re hesitant to leave because it’s still sunny and the weather’s still warm,” Posas said in a phone interview. 

Despite the residents’ reactions, Posas insisted it is the local officials’ responsibility to keep the residents safe from Pablo. He said the local government has put two rubber boats, army trucks, and patrol cars on standby for rescue operations.

The OCD said it wants to prevent deaths due to Pablo, in the same way that Surigao del Sur had zero casualties during the onslaught of Sendong. Like Pablo, Sendong made landfall in Surigao del Sur in 2011.

On Saturday, December 1, NDRRMC executive director Benito Ramos told Rappler that local governments have begun preparing for Pablo since Tuesday last week, when the state weather bureau alerted the public about the typhoon. He said the longer time to prepare is also a marked difference from Sendong. – Rappler.com

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email pat.esmaquel@rappler.com