Villages on Mayon slopes declared ‘no man’s land’
LEGAZPI CITY—Two sitios (subvillages) in Malilipot town, Albay province, were declared “no man’s land” due to landslides triggered by heavy rains brought by recent typhoons that hit the Bicol region.
The landslide in Barangay San Roque near the banks of Bulawan River has expanded to about 100 meters wide and 60 m (200 feet) deep.
At least 45 families or 198 people living in Zones 1 and 3 have sought temporary shelter in San Roque Elementary School and other houses in the village, said Alvin Magdaong, head of the town’s disaster risk reduction and management office.
A 50-m buffer zone from the critical edge of the collapsed area has been drawn to ensure the safety of the people, he said. “There will be zero human activity in the buffer zone because this is a critical area,” he said.
From the last week of October to the second week of November, Bicol was hit by three destructive typhoons that brought heavy rains—Typhoons “Quinta” (international name: Molave), “Rolly” (Goni) and “Ulysses” (Vamco).
Magdaong said the eroded materials were mostly sand, boulders and gravel.
“The soil is basically a layering of lahar or pyroclastic materials. These are volcanic materials which are loosely consolidated … Now that these reached the threshold capacity to hold water, these would really collapse,” he said.
Malilipot Mayor Roli Volante said residents in the affected area should be permanently relocated as a precaution. The local government owns a 2.5-hectare land in the same village that can be used as a resettlement site, he said.
Another downpour, he said, could worsen landslides while possible lahar flow would endanger residents in Barangay San Jose, Binitayan and San Francisco.
The flow of water with debris from the river in the slopes of the volcano has diverted and scoured the edge of the riverbank.
Magdaong said a solution would be to dredge the river to prevent further landslides and flooding, especially in low-lying areas. “We need to take out materials from the riverbed to redirect the flow of water,” he said.
Because of the loose soil, the area would not be safe for houses, particularly in the critical section, he said. “I will not recommend a high-rise building here and we can even declare this a ‘no build zone’ because of the type of materials deposited which is highly sensitive to rain,” he said.
The subvillages are inside the 9-kilometer radius of Mayon Volcano, and considered among the hot spots during eruption.
Due to severe damage and risk of landslides, Volante said authorities had recommended the closure of the national road, which serves Barangay Calbayog and San Roque.
Fissures in Quirino
Ground fissures and landslides have damaged houses of 150 families in Quirino and Nueva Vizcaya provinces, prompting residents to seek a permanent relocation site.
Some 100 families from the Bugkalot tribe at Barangay San Pugo in Nagtipunan town, Quirino, have asked their local government for help to immediately transfer them to a permanent and safe housing area.
Nagtipunan Mayor Nieverose Meneses said the fissures had been prevalent in the area due to the incessant rains that saturated the soil.
She said the result of tests done by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) on the ground cracks was still being awaited.
“We’re not planning to rehabilitate the area. We will instead convert it into a dump,” she said, adding that a permanent relocation site had already been identified for the affected residents, but the area needed to be inspected by the MGB.
In Nueva Vizcaya, 50 families living at a mining site in Barangay Runruno, Quezon town, could lose their houses to landslides that occurred in the area due to the recent typhoons.
On Nov. 12, at least 10 small-scale miners were buried alive in landslides that struck their houses in Runruno during the onslaught of Ulysses. —WITH A REPORT FROM VILLAMOR VISAYA JR.