CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY—This time, the city will not be caught by surprise.
Unlike in December 2011, the city is prepared should tropical storm “Bopha” (to be called “Pablo” when it enters the country) intensify and dump even more rain than storm “Sendong” did, disaster officials said on Friday.
When Sendong hit eastern and northern Mindanao last year, it triggered floods that killed thousands of people here and in Iligan City.
The new weather disturbance, packing winds of 90 kph, is expected to hit Northern Mindanao and Eastern Visayas Sunday evening, the weather bureau said Friday.
Benito Ramos, executive director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC) warned that while Bopha is still over 1,000 kilometers away from Mindanao, its size—400 to 500 km in diameter—was worrisome.
“A picture tells a thousand words,” Ramos told Manila reporters on Tuesday while holding a satellite imagery of Bopha.
“It is possible that the storm could (intensify) and bring even more rain than Sendong did,” Ramos was quoted as saying.
Ramos said Cagayan de Oro and Iligan would be in the path of the expected storm.
Anna Cañeda, director of the Office of Civil Defense in Northern Mindanao, said they have already sent alerts to all local government offices in the region.
Vice Mayor Ian Acenas said that the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (CDRRMC) was prepared for Pablo. He said systems on monitoring, mitigation, response, rescue and other preparations, had been put in place.
Armen Cuenca, chief of the Cagayan de Oro Assistance for Life Emergency and Response Team (Oro Alert), said the Sendong tragedy served lessons to the government which has since installed early warning devices in various areas of the city and in nearby Bukidnon.
Cuenca said the early warning devices would measure rainfall volume and water levels in barangays Macasandig, Pigsag-an, San Simon here, and in the towns of Libona, Talakag and Baungon in Bukidnon.
The devices will send real-time data every 15 minutes to the NDRRMC operation center in the city.
“It will monitor the level of the rain and will emit warnings when (dangerous) conditions are reached,” he said.
Last year, most people here and in Iligan were unaware that the river systems had taken in water more than their capacity. Many victims were asleep when water rose as deep as 30 meters, sweeping away everything in its path.
Cuenca said this time, residents would be provided bulletins based on the results of the monitoring.
“There is white, green, blue and red (levels),” he said, adding that a red alert meant forced evacuation would be implemented.
But he said people were advised not to wait for the highest alert level.
When the water level reaches 30 millimeters every hour for two hours, a blue-level warning will be issued, which means that “people should evacuate voluntarily,” he said.
Cuenca said the disaster response unit identified those living along the Cagayan de Oro River and the heavily silted Iponan river as priorities should evacuation becomes necessary.
The Army, the police and the barangay tanods are tasked to implement the forced evacuation of residents, he said.
In Iligan City, Allan Padilla, administrator of the Iligan City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (ICDRRMC), said at least two additional rubber boats were on standby in case of floods.
“We have two brand new rubber boats aside from the existing rescue equipment and facilities,” Padilla said.