With hundreds of people still missing in the cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan, flashfloods have again struck, this time inundating parts of Bukidnon and Surigao in up to three feet of water. This is not supposed to be typhoon or flood season, but many things are being upended in the age of climate change.
At least the latest floods did not claim lives and did not have the force of the rampaging waters that devastated Iligan and Cagayan de Oro. The confirmed death toll in the two cities has breached 1,000 and the final count could be over a thousand more.
The flashfloods could happen again, and improving the government’s response should be given priority in the coming year. While the floods in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan were unusual, they were not entirely unexpected. Environmental groups have pointed out that detailed warnings were issued several years ago but were ignored by disaster mitigation officials and local government executives. Obviously the warnings had been completely forgotten by the time tropical storm “Sendong” swelled rivers and spawned torrential flooding in many low-lying areas of Mindanao.
Authorities must take a closer look at the capability of the weather bureau to predict the amount of rainfall. Sendong was not even classified as a typhoon and the worst-hit areas were placed merely under storm warning signal No. 2. The government must also review evacuation protocols and facilities. People typically refuse to heed evacuation warnings because of the inadequacy of evacuation resources and fears of losing their belongings to looters if homes are abandoned.
This country is in the path of tropical cyclones and lies in the so-called Ring of Fire, making it prone to powerful earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis. It’s time for the government to develop decent evacuation facilities. It’s time to improve its overall preparedness for dealing with natural calamities.