FAST FACTS: Leyte and natural disasters

Jodesz Gavilan

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FAST FACTS: Leyte and natural disasters
Leyte province has had its share of natural disasters over the years

MANILA, Philippines – A magnitude 6.5 earthquake struck Leyte province Thursday afternoon, July 6, which left at least two people dead and a hundred injured. 

According to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), the epicenter of the quake, which hit at 4:03 pm, was near Ormoc City.

On Friday, July 7, the province continued to experience aftershocks while authorities assessed the extent of the damage. (READ: Fear, panic as aftershocks rock Leyte)

Leyte is one of the 6 provinces in Eastern Visayas. With a land area of 7,368 km², it is considered one of the biggest provinces in the region.  

It also has the biggest population with 1.73 million in 2015 and is considered as the fastest-growing province in the region – with an average annual population growth rate of 1.83% from 2010 to 2015.

According to a study by Phivolcs in 2014, a segment of the Philippine Fault called the Central Leyte Fault traverses the province. Leyte also has 18 volcanoes but only one, Cancajanag volcano, is active.

Disasters over the years

Prior to this earthquake, Leyte has had its share of disasters over the years. 

Perhaps the earliest account of a disaster hitting the province was through a scientific study published by Fr. Jose Algue, S.J. of the Observatorio de Manila. The typhoon which devastated Leyte in October 1897 left more than 400 people dead. (READ: Flashback: 1897, Leyte and a strong typhoon 

The typhoon was considered “among the most violent that traversed the Philippine archipelago” given that it was 5 times worse than the typhoon of October 1882 which affected Southern Luzon.

Almost a century later, Leyte was hit again by what is considered as the second deadliest typhoon in Philippine history. On November 5, 1991, torrential rains brought by Typhoon Uring (Thelma) caused rivers to overflow – triggering flash floods. (READ: Worst natural disasters in the Philippines) 

At least 4,000 people died in the massive flooding with about 3,000 people injured and about 2,500 reported missing after the floods. Majority of the victims were residents of Ormoc City. (LOOK BACK: The 1991 flash flood that devastated Ormoc City)

A report by the Manila Observatory identified other factors behind the disaster aside from the heavy rains. These include illegal logging, deforestation, and geographic conditions. The soil in the Ormoc watershed exceeded its capacity to hold water while the soil in the central part of Leyte is susceptible to erosion, the Manila Observatory said.

In recent history, the most devastating disaster that struck Leyte was Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). (TIMELINE: Super Typhoon Yolanda)

One of the strongest and most destructive typhoons to hit the country, it claimed at least 6,201 lives as it tore across Eastern Visayas in November 2013. Large parts of Leyte, including Tacloban and Ormoc cities, bore the brunt of Super Typhoon Yolanda, leaving them isolated for weeks in the aftermath.  –

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Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and impunity beats, producing in-depth and investigative reports particularly on the quest for justice of victims of former president Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs and war on dissent.