Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Kopi Talk Preparing for disaster

A super typhoon is expected this week, hitting Mindanao and the Visayas and then approaching Luzon and Metro Manila. Weather forecasters have issued sufficient warning, and it is now up to authorities to prepare for typhoon “Bopha,” renamed “Pablo” as it enters the Philippine area of responsibility. Last year at around this time, storm “Sendong” struck Mindanao, with rampaging floods leaving nearly 1,300 dead, mostly in the cities of Iligan and Cagayan de Oro. Many of those killed were washed away in their riverside homes by massive logs that rolled down from nearby mountains. Those who cut down the trees have not been brought to justice. Yesterday, authorities announced that security and relief teams were on standby for Pablo. Iligan and Cagayan de Oro will probably be better prepared than other cities this time. Their tragic experience last year should compel other cities and towns to improve preparedness not only for Pablo but also for the many typhoons and torrential monsoon rains that hit the country every year. Improving disaster preparedness is important especially because the Philippines has been identified by the World Bank as one of the countries where cities are most vulnerable to climate change. The WB study noted that unless addressed, climate change could lead to rising sea levels and extreme weather conditions. This could aggravate flooding in Metro Manila, which even without climate change is known to be gradually sinking into the sea. Metro Manila has started experiencing weather disturbances that used to be rare in this country, such as the storm surge from Manila Bay. Since powerful typhoons such as Milenyo, Ondoy and Pepeng struck, the nation has improved its storm and rainfall tracking capability. This will have to be accompanied by improved responses to disasters, including effective flood warning systems and the provision of decent evacuation sites. With warnings issued on typhoon Pablo, there is no excuse for those along its path to be ill-prepared