MANILA, Philippines – The strongest typhoon to hit the country this year claims hundreds of lives, despite government warnings and memories of Tropical Storm Sendong last year. Paterno Esmaquel reports.
Pablo is the strongest typhoon to hit the country this year but officials say Filipinos have learned from previous disasters.
The wake-up call was Tropical Storm Sendong last year, which killed over 1,400 people in a region that rarely experiences storms.
Government data show that within a day after Pablo made landfall, at least 8 out of 10 affected residents moved to evacuation centers.
In the same period when Sendong struck Mindanao in 2011, only 3 out of 10 residents evacuated. Disaster council chief Benito Ramos says Filipinos now know it can be fatal to ignore calls to evacuate.
BENITO RAMOS, HEAD, NDRRMC: Hindi lang sa gobyerno ito, ‘yung taumbayan. Kasi naturuan na sila ng kalikasan. ‘Pag evacuate tayo, evacuate tayo. Sumusunod na sila sa abiso ng gobyerno. Nasobrahan na ang trauma ng mga tao.
Ramos says government ran an extensive information campaign after Sendong last year. But while urban residents were secured, Pablo killed 200 people in Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental.
BONG CINGCO, RESIDENT: Nananawagan kami kay Mr Presidente para sa tubig, pagkain, at saka gamot, kasi mahirap dito ang tubig eh. Wala na kaming iniinom dito. Tubig ng niyog na lang, minsan wala pa eh.
Ramos admits, in a sense, they have failed.
BENITO RAMOS: Hindi naman ako passing grade, dahil yung 95 casualties, apektado ako niyan dahil marami ito sa aking assessment, still marami. Siguro kung isa lang ang namatay, o mas maganda kung zero, I will be satisfied.
Experts say denuded forests caused the landslides and flash floods that took so many lives in Compostela.
BENIGNO AQUINO III, PHILIPPINE PRESIDENT: For instance yung army na unit. Bakit sila naka-base sa ganung flash flood. May report na evacuation center nadale din ng flashflood.
Officials say opening the people’s eyes to the dangers they face is half the battle. The harder task ahead is ending illegal logging.
Paterno Esmaquel, Rappler, Manila