MATI CITY—That Davao Oriental is still groping in the dark a week after Typhoon “Pablo” struck leaves serious doubts about the four awards it has won so far for disaster preparedness. Pablo killed 337 people in the province.
Gov. Corazon Malanyaon received on Aug. 1 the Gawad Kalasag for heading the Best Prepared Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council in a ceremony at the Apo View Hotel in Davao City.
The award was sponsored by the Regional Risk Reduction and Management Council and the Office of the Civil Defense.
But it was not the first for the Malanyaon-headed council to receive such distinction. In 2009, it was named third-best prepared local disaster coordinating council all over the country, next only to Albay and Antique.
In 2010, it again placed third, next to Bulacan and Albay.
Last year, the province received an award for being the best prepared local government unit in Mindanao in disaster management.
On its official website, Davao Oriental boasts of the awards and even says that it has “considered public safety one of its priority concerns.”
“The province has allocated funds for equipment, rescue training, fire and earthquake drills in schools and workplaces, and lately on the construction of the PDRRMC (Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council) headquarters and operation center,” the website said.
Then, Pablo struck. As of Sunday night, the PDRRMC had recorded a total of 337 people killed—most of them hit by fallen trees at the height of the typhoon.
Malanyaon said in an interview that she was “in command” before the typhoon made landfall, calling the town mayors to implement preemptive evacuations in risky areas.
“We were ready,” she said.
Some residents, however, said they were not warned.
“We were only told to monitor what’s happening on the radio. We did that but power was down at 8 p.m. of Dec. 3,” a resident of Baganga town told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
A village councilwoman in Baganga said there was no order for residents to evacuate. “Really, there was none,” she said.
There were forced evacuations in some areas. People were hauled to schools, municipal gyms and churches. But the typhoon did not spare what should have been a safe haven for the evacuees.
Gathering in unsafe place
Many were either killed or injured when strong winds ripped off roofs and walls of designated evacuation centers. It was like gathering people in one unsafe place.
The municipal gymnasium in Baganga town was twisted, folded like a tin can. Cateel Central Elementary School was smashed, with only the flagpole left standing. Churches and government buildings in both towns were also damaged. People had nowhere to run.
“No matter how prepared you were, the force of Typhoon Pablo was simply overwhelming. It was beyond our control,” Malanyaon said in a statement released on Monday.
The province was neither ready for what the typhoon had left behind—deaths, injuries, the missing and the homeless.
It took more than a day before relief goods arrived in the affected areas. Baogo Bridge, which connects the towns of Caraga and Baganga, collapsed at the height of the typhoon.
Vice Gov. Jose Mayo Almario said it would have been easier to transport goods from Mati City, the seat of power of the provincial government, to the affected towns eastward if the bridge was not destroyed.
Almario, over the weekend, had to cross the river using a bamboo raft to transport the relief goods that he and his family had prepared for some evacuees in Baganga town.
The provincial government has been sending relief goods, being repacked at the capitol, to the affected towns of Baganga, Cateel and Boston using a Philippine Navy boat.
Eight-hour boat trip
The boat, however, has to travel eight hours from Mati City before it reaches the isolated towns.
“We used to be typhoon-free. That’s no longer the case now. In rebuilding our houses, we really have to make sure it is built to withstand supertyphoons,” Malanyaon said in the statement.
There was no mention of building typhoon-proof evacuation centers or bridges that could withstand logs being swept away by swollen rivers.
Originally posted: 6:08 pm | Monday, December 10th, 2012