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MANILA, Philippines – Before Tacloban City, Guinsaugon was the center of a gruesome disaster that hit Eastern Visayas.
On this day in 2006, a whole section of the mountain that overlooked the village of Guinsaugon in St Bernard, Southern Leyte collapsed.
The rain-induced landslide carried 1.2 billion cubic meters of mud and boulders, covering 300 hectares of the barangay and killing 1,500 people in minutes.
Because of the speed of text messages and the fact that the landslide was seen by those traversing the national highway, response from the authorities came almost immediately.
But just 8 days after the disaster struck, the local government called off rescue efforts, as the drying mud gave little to no chance of survival for those trapped inside buried structures.
By that time, only 137 bodies and 15 body parts had been recovered. Some 973 remained missing, all presumed dead.
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Just like Tacloban City, Guinsaugon was geologically hazardous to begin with.
Rocks in the section of the mountain that overlooked Guinsaugon had been made fragile by the Philippine fault line, which passes Leyte, making the place dangerous for settlement.
Detailed geohazard maps and land use could have prevented the construction of houses and other establishments in the area, and could have minimized the loss of lives and property.
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The tragedy in Guinsaugon is, in many ways, similar to that caused by Super Typhoon Yolanda in terms of the magnitude of aid and rehabilitation it required.
The landslide attracted rescue and relief assistance from several countries, with some P29 million in financial aid raised.
But the rehabilitation came quite slowly, as survivor-families remained in cramped, makeshift evacuation centers 6 months after the disaster.
The local government is said to have distributed the amount of aid received not only to the survivors of Guinsaugon, but to other high-risk areas of Southern Leyte, too.
Survivor-families from Guinsaugon got only about P6,000 in cash donations, which generated resentment because the victims felt they should have gotten more.
(READ: Slow Build)
Returning to Guinsaugon
Despite the tragedy, some survivors reportedly returned to Guinsaugon even after being relocated to a place not vulnerable to landslides and floods.
The land where they were relocated to is said to be unfit for farming, their main source of income, hence forcing them to return to where they used to stay.
(READ: Lessons from Guinsaugon)
Even before Yolanda happened, the Guinsaugon disaster had already identified problems related to disaster preparedness and recovery. Yet the same issues resurfaced – demanding the same solutions and action, again resulting in a huge number of fatalities. – Rappler.com