ComVal Governor: We didn’t expect this damage
ComVal officials say they did not expect the extent of the damage from 'Pablo' but DENR execs say there were warned

GRIEF. Residents of New Bataan, Compostela Valley identify the remains of victims of the flooding and landslide in the area, caused by typhoon Pablo (Bopha), December 5, 2012. Photo by Karlos Manlupig.

MANILA, Philippines – “We didn’t expect this.”

Compostela Valley Governor Arturo “Arthur” Uy admitted that he did not foresee the extent of the damage Typhoon “Pablo” (Bopha) brought to his province.

Compostela Valley is one of the hardest hit areas, with the official death toll pegged at 184 as of 6 am of Thursday, December 6. In the town of New Bataan alone, the fatalities reached 85. Compostela Valley is now under a state of calamity.

The total number of casualties from Pablo is 325 as of Thursday, December 6, 9 am.  

“Hindi naman risky ito, Poblacion ito eh,” Uy said in an interview with reporters on Thursday. (This is not risky, this is Poblacion.)

“Itong gumuho na sobrang laking volume nang tubig, ‘di natin inasahan …. Bumigay kasi ang evacuation center namin, two days prior nagevacuate na tayo eh [sa] barangay center, covered court, doon bumuhos ang tubig. ‘Di natin akalain iyon.”

(This volume of water that fell, we did not expect it. The evacuation center gave way, two days prior, we already evacuated residents to the barangay center, covered court, the water poured there. We did not expect that.)

Uy said he wanted the cause of the flooding investigated, with speculation that the bulk of the water was from a tornado while others thought it was from waterfalls. 

Yet Mines and Geosciences Bureau Director Leo Jasareno said some areas in New Bataan should not be inhabited because these are disaster-prone.

“The residents of flood-prone areas should have heeded the warning systems so that when the typhoon hit, it was easy to flee,” Jasareno said in an interview on GMA News TV.

‘They didn’t know where to go’

Geologist Alfredo Mahar Lagmay, executive director of government’s Project NOAH, said residents of Compostela Valley were advised to leave mountainous areas but they miscalculated the evacuation sites. NOAH stands for Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards.

“Everybody was supposed to be prepared. In fact, they tried to prepare. People should not only know the timing of the floods but also where to go. Apparently, in Compostela Valley, they didn’t know where to go so that was the problem,” Lagmay told ANC, the ABS-CBN News Channel.

Lagmay said Project NOAH prepared flood simulations for Compostela Valley on Wednesday, December 5, and it showed that New Bataan is indeed flood-prone.

He said his group is still in the process of finalizing detailed topographic maps of Compostela Valley, explaining that Project NOAH only started this year.

“We may have regional-scale maps but they do not suffice … These detailed maps, a deliverable of Project NOAH, will soon come.”

DAMAGE. A resident of New Bataan, Compostela Valley tries to salvage scrap wood from debris caused by typhoon Pablo (Bopha), December 5, 2012. Photo by Karlos Manlupig.

Lagmay added that mining and logging may be factors in exacerbating the damage from the typhoon. 

“Like Sendong, logging may have contributed to the flooding events but even if there was a thick forest, floods can also happen so in the past when there was no civilization yet in those areas where the forest was thick, floods do happen.” 

Lagmay said that while Mindanao was seldom hit by typhoons in past decades, studies show there is now a tendency for storms to move there.

“It’s shifting to the south,” he said. 

Food and water priority

Vice President Jejomar Binay visited Compostela Valley on Thursday, December 6, and said residents should not be allowed to return to the danger zones.

“The President always says those from the danger zones should not be allowed to go back. The aid we will give for housing and to repair roofs should be used for the relocation areas instead,” Binay told reporters.

Binay said the immediate priority of government and non-governmental organizations is to provide food and water to victims. TV footage showed residents lining up for aid.

Binay, chairman of the Housing Urban Development Coordinating Council, said he is focused on addressing housing needs. Responding to the damage in agriculture will be the next priority, he said.

President Benigno Aquino III is also set to visit Compostela Valley and Boston, Davao Oriental on Friday, December 7.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council has placed the damage brought by the typhoon at P178 million, a large part due to infrastructure.

Losses amounted to P2.5 million in agriculture, and P3.5 million worth of private property were damaged. –  

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