Bicol braces for massive landslides, lahar flow

Rhadyz B. Barcia
Bicol braces for massive landslides, lahar flow
Pre-emptive evacuation is being carried out in Albay as government scientists warn of heavy damage to agriculture, property, and life in the Bicol region if precautions are not taken early enough

LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines – Typhoon Ruby (international name: Hagupit) is expected to cause massive landslides, storm surges, and flashfloods, as well as trigger lahar flow from two active volcanoes, an official of the state weather bureau told local officials on Thursday, December 4.

Lilian Guillermo, officer-in-charge of the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical Astronomical and Services Administration (PAGASA) in Bicol, also warned during the emergency briefing at the Albay Public Safety Emergency Management Office (Apsemo) that Ruby could cause heavy damage to agriculture and properties, and could uproot trees and destroy infrastructure projects.

“We are urging the public to take shelter before Ruby makes landfall on Saturday. For sea, air, and road travellers to cancel their trips ahead of time for safety,” Guillermo told local chief executives of Albay, disaster officials, and responders.

She said Ruby was expected to bring intense rainfall when it passes through Sorsogon and the west coast of Albay, both in this region, before it makes landfall in Eastern Visayas on Saturday, December 6.

Cedric Daep, chief of the Albay Public Safety Emergency Management Office, said they will conduct forced evacuation of residents threatened by storm surges, lahar flow, and flashfloods, and families whose houses are made of light materials.

He also recommended that all sea vessels not be allowed to sail starting Friday.

“There will be no rescue during the height of the typhoon because we don’t want to put the lives of the rescuers into danger. So if anybody or local government unit requested for rescue operation don’t expect us to respond and therefore you’re not performing your duty,” Daep told the mayors of Albay.

Half of region vulnerable

A Mines and Geosciences Bureau study showed that half of the Bicol region is prone to landslides and floods, according to Arlene Dayao, geosciences division officer-in-charge.

Among them are 10 towns in Masbate, 14 in Albay, 8 in Camarines Norte, 20 in Camarines Sur, 11 in Catanduanes, and 12 in Sorsogon.

PAGASA officials warned that storm surges 3 to 4 meters high might pummel the coastal areas of the Visayas as well as the Bicol region.  

Ed Laguerta, Phivolcs chief resident volcanologist in Bicol, said Ruby is estimated to bring heavy to intense amount of rainfall within its 700 km diameter. This can trigger landslides and lahar flow from Mayon Volcano in Albay and from Bulusan Volcano in Sorsogon, threatening downstream communities.

Phivolcs reiterated the need to strictly keep people out of the Permanent Danger Zones around Mayon and Bulusan since the typhoon can potentially cause rockfalls, avalanches, and steam-driven explosions at the summit area.

In Albay, Governor Joey Sarte Salceda ordered the cancellation of Friday classes to clear the schools for typhoon evacuees.  

“Don’t go to class unless you are evacuating. We need the classrooms and we have to clear and clean them. Use the time to prepare for a possibly 2- to 3-day seclusion from bad elements. All levels, all areas, all types. Classes are suspended tomorrow (Friday) until lifted,” the governor said.

He also directed employees of the provincial government not to report for work and instead take care of their families. On employees of the disaster response office and agencies involved in emergency work are required to go to work.

In Camarines Sur, Governor Jose Miguel Villafuete also ordered Friday classes suspended. – 


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