STATE OF CALAMITY
Days of incessant rain have placed in danger the lives of residents of Cebu City’s mountain barangays, forcing 99 families to flee their homes that were damaged or threatened by landslides and soil erosion.
The threat to life and properties prompted the Cebu City Council to place all of the city’s 31 mountain barangays under a state of calamity.
Flooding over the lowland areas has also affected not just Cebu City’s urban areas but also many lowland towns in Cebu province, and has so far claimed the lives of four persons, all drowning victims.
Placing Cebu’s mountain villages under a state of calamity was decided by the city council after Councilor Jerry Guardo, in a privilege speech, noted that areas affected by landslides, such as Sitio Tanawan 1 and Kan-irag in Barangay Sirao looked like they were hit by an earthquake.
“Sa akong obserbasyon, morag naigo og kusog nga linog ang hitsura sa dalan nga nahisama sa mga karsada kaniadto sa Bohol human naigo sa makalilisang nga 7.2 magnitude nga linog,” he said in his speech.
(In my observation, it was like the road was hit by a strong earthquake similar to roads in Bohol after being hit by the 7.2 magnitude earthquake)
“The cemented road is like a brick puzzle scattered in the area and you need to connect and form it again,” he added.
The declaration will enable the city to use its disaster fund to rehabilitate areas affected by landslides.
Guardo said that aside from Sirao, most affected by landslides were the mountain barangays of Agsungot, Busay, Budlaan, Binaliw, Bonbon, Kalunasan, Pamutan, Pit-os, Mabini, Toong and Sapangdaku.
Cebu City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (CCDRRMO) head Nagiel Bañacia said 99 families from Barangay Sirao were evacuated, 63 of whom were housed at the Sirao Elementary School while the rest were brought to the gym and school building of the nearby Barangay Pung-ol Sibugay.
“The landslide area in Sirao is still very dangerous. The earth is still moving down, said geologist Clark Cebrian. In 1997, the same area also experienced a similar kind of landslide,” Bañacia said in a post on his Facebook account.
Bañacia said they had set up warning signs and flaglets to warn people of the danger areas.
Guardo said he learned from Romeo Aguirre, a weather specialist of the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa), that 71.2 millimeters of rainfall were recorded in Cebu during last Monday’s nonstop rain, triggering floods.
This is more than half of the average rainfall for the entire month of January, which is 126.4 millimeters, he added.
Bañacia said they would continue to monitor the water level at the Mahiga Creek even after the rain stopped yesterday because floods that used to result from the overflowing creek would usually affect Barangays Mabolo, Kasambagan, Banilad and Hipodromo in Cebu City and Subangdaku and Cabancalan in Mandaue City.
Guardo said an assessment by the city engineering office showed that the damaged portion of the Sirao road was around 500 meters in length, costing P4.5 million. It connects to the popular Sirao Flower Garden or the Little Amsterdam, which has become a tourist destination in the city.
“We cannot afford to risk the lives of our dear tourists who will visit the garden since authorities warned that there is continuing movement of the ground as the rain persists,” Guardo said.
He urged the Department of Tourism (DOT) and the Department of Agriculture (DA) to check the affected area and provide assistance.
Following Guardo’s privilege speech, the City Council passed resolutions urging the Department of Engineering and Public Works (DEPW) to prepare the necessary program of works and estimates or any mitigating measures on the “huge tension cracks” spotted by the CCDRRMO at the top of Mt. Kan-irag in Sirao.
The council also asked the barangay to order the temporary road closure of the affected road; and for the CCDRRMO and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB-7) to establish an incident command post in the area to closely monitor land movements and provide necessary recommendations.
The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) was also asked by the City Council to immediately repair national roads in the city affected by landslides.
One of the families in Sirao affected by the landslide, Gerrilyn Gabisay, said they decided to leave and evacuate to the Sirao Elementary School because her house was slowly being cut in half by slow soil erosion that began Sunday, days after non-stop rain.
Armando Mabini, another evacuee, said his house made of light materials went down on its side on Sunday following a sudden soil erosion.
The affected residents also have to deal with lost income since the landslides also destroyed agricultural and flower farms.
Edgar Gabisay said they should have been harvesting their flowers to sell at Freedom Park in Carbon Public Market in downtown area, but floods had ruined them. He placed his loss at about P50,000.
MGB-7 calls for preemptive evacuation
As Pagasa forecast more rain this week, the MGB-7 again called on local government units and their disaster risk reduction team to implement preemptive evacuation especially in landslide- and flood-prone areas.
“The effects of landslide and flooding on people and structures can be minimized by total avoidance of landslide and flood hazard areas or by imposing conditions in areas that were already identified as landslide prone,” MGB-7 director Loreto Alburo said.
MGB-7 has identified 41 barangays in Cebu City that are susceptible to flooding and 63 barangays, mostly hinterland villages, that are vulnerable to landslide.
In Barangay Sirao, 13 sites are identified as susceptible to rain-induced landslide, including portion of Kamandagan, Kambyo-os, Langub, Proper, and Tawagan II.
Mandaue City has 28 barangays vulnerable to flooding and five landslide-prone barangays.
There are also 16 low-lying barangays in Lapu-Lapu, 10 barangays in Consolacion, 17 in Talisay and 16 in Minglanilla that may experience flooding based on their geological location and flood history.
“We advise that the residents in hazardous areas would coordinate with their local officials if they would be asked to temporarily or permanently evacuate especially during a long period of rain to avoid casualties and damage to properties,” Alburo said.
Back to school
In Mandaue City, situation has begun to normalize after the almost 500 families from Barangay Paknaan, who flee their homes at the height of the flood, have all gone back to their homes.
Felix Suico Jr., head of the Mandaue City Disaster, Risk Reduction, and Management Office (MDRRMO), said the water levels at the Butuanon River and Mahiga Creek, which overflowed on Monday, were back to normal yesterday.
Suico added classes that were suspended on Monday and Tuesday would resume today.
The MDRRMO has reported one fatality after the body of Billy Maribong, 29, of Sitio Riverside, Barangay Canduman, was retrieved at the river bank of Butuanon River.
Maribong was reported missing since Saturday morning after he crossed the overflowing river in Barangay Paknaan. He was one of five fatalities reported in Cebu since Monday as a result of flooding.
At present, two casualties resulting from the non-stop rain have been reported from Naga City, one from Mandaue City, while a man in Bogo City reportedly died after trying to swim in the beach despite turbulent waves.
Missing fishers found
Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office head Baltazar Tribunalo Jr., on the other hand, said that the two fishermen from Barangay Langtad, Argao who have reportedly gone missing since 4 a.m. on Tuesday morning were found alive and well.
Tribunalo said that the two still unidentified fishermen were found in Cebu’s adjoining island-province of Siquijor.
Residents of Barangay Uling in Naga City, who are now staying in evacuation centers, were asked by Tribunalo to stay put since the soil in their area could still be unstable.
Meawhile, Cebu Gov. Hilario Davide III, in a text blast, announced there will be classes on Wednesday but in case of potential risks due to rainfall, landslides, and flooding, the decision of cancellation of classes will be localized.
“Meaning it will be the local chief executive to decide,” he said.
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