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Expert: The next super typhoon could hit Bicol

April 2, 2014 10:49pm

Bicol, you have been warned.

The German Development Cooperation's (GIZ) chief advisor on disaster risk management Olaf Neussner said that the next time a super typhoon reaches the Philippines, it could hit Bicol and other areas on the country's east coast.

 
GIZ chief advisor on disaster risk management Olaf Neussner warns: the next super typhoon could hit Bicol. Rouchelle R. Dinglasan
 "[A Yolanda-like typhoon] is more likely to happen in the north like Bicol and further in Luzon," Neussner told reporters at the sidelines of the Donors Forum for Yolanda-affected areas organized by GIZ last week.

"Statistically speaking, more typhoons go into the Philippines in the north so this is still in the storm belt… [The] probability is higher in Bicol so there should be a prioritization done to look at areas in the north," he said.

Neussner explained that as typhoons normally originate in the Pacific Ocean, the country's east coast is more likely to be in danger than the west coast.

Likewise, Neussner noted that stronger typhoons usually materialize from the east.

"Bicol is in higher danger of high waves from storm surge than areas that are in the west coast [like Metro Manila]," he added.

Neussner, who is based in Tacloban City and has been in the country since 2009, also did not discount the possibility that a super typhoon may again strike Leyte and Samar.

But one on the scale of Yolanda itself?

"[Yolanda] happens once about 100 to 200 years," he noted.

What happened during Yolanda

In GIZ's assessment of the early warning efforts in Leyte for the super typhoon, it noted that Yolanda was the "deadliest natural disaster" to hit the country.

"It appeared that the Philippines was not fully prepared to meet this typhoon in terms of early warning, response, relief and rehabilitation," the study read.

It noted that the storm surge hazard map used by local government units "underestimated the inundation area."

"The actual area was much larger and close to the inundation area of the official tsunami hazard map," it added.

Tanauan town mayor Pel Tecson concurred with GIZ's observation. "The tsunami map was actually what happened," he said.



"GIZ calculated that approximately 94 percent of the casualties in Tacloban, Palo and Tanauan were caused by the storm surge," the study said.

"Warnings by many institutions, including OCD (Office of Civil Defense) and LGUs, were apparently not serious enough to make people understand that their lives were in jeopardy if they do not evacuate," it added.

Many did not understand the term "storm surge," GIZ said.

And for those who evacuated, the study said, many of the evacuation centers were still located in storm surge areas and also got flooded.

Prevention

To avert another disaster like what happened in Leyte, GIZ recommended that the government adjust and update its storm hazard maps.

Neussner revealed that GIZ, the United Nations Development Programme and the University of the Philippines' National Institute of Geological Sciences are working together to map the areas in Leyte that were affected by the super typhoon.

Likewise, GIZ noted that storm surges should be included in the official warning system, just like tsunamis.

The study also suggested that the authorities evaluate the existing evacuation centers and identify those within danger zones.

Ultimately, GIZ said that the government should be able to impose forced evacuation if necessary— just like in Albay, where there is a strict implementation of evacuation procedures if there is a typhoon landing in the area.

"Serious warnings and more effective evacuations along the coastline could have saved many lives," it concluded. — BM, GMA News

The reporter's trip to Tacloban City was sponsored by the German Development Cooperation (GIZ).


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