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Rains, aftershocks haunt southern Philippines

/ 05:02 AM February 17, 2012

MANILA, Philippines—As if earthquakes were not enough, incessant bad weather has been wreaking havoc in provinces in the Visayas, Mindanao and the Bicol region the past four days, killing two, injuring six and causing the evacuation of 569 people.

In several Negros Oriental towns, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has raised geohazard warnings amid rains and continuing aftershocks following the magnitude-6.9 earthquake that struck the province on February 6.

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Environment Secretary Ramon Paje urged local government units and communities to take precautions as the twin hazards could trigger more landslides.

“Rain as well as earth tremors, whether these may be light or moderate, must be taken seriously. Rain could weaken the soil, while tremors could produce slope instability, tension cracks and fractures that could enhance the vulnerability of areas to landslides,” Paje said.

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The warning came a week after the magnitude-6.9 quake rocked the province, killing over 70 people, and burying towns and damaging roads. Yesterday, the weather bureau warned of widespread rains in the province due to a low pressure area in Mindanao.

Highly susceptible

Five barangays (villages) in Guihulngan City are highly susceptible to rain-induced landslides, the DENR said. These are Humayhumay, Imelda, Mabunga, Sandayao and Tacpao.  Barangay Binobohan, on the other hand, has moderate to high susceptibility.

Barangays with moderate susceptibility include Bakid, Banwaque, Calamba, Calupa-an, Linantuyan, Mabunga, Maniak, Plagatasanon, Planas, Trinidad and Villegas.

In La Libertad, another municipality hard hit by the earthquake, nine barangays were assessed to have high-landslide susceptibility.  These are Aniniaw, Aya, Biga-a, Guihob, Kansumandig, Mambutod, Managondong, Pangca and Pitogo, with Mandapaton having moderate to high susceptibility.

In Abuyog town, Leyte, nonstop rains triggered floods and in Southern Leyte landslides rendered a major highway impassable for a few hours.

The floods in 10 barangays in Abuyog rose two meters after three rivers—Bito, Tayog and Higasaan—overflowed following continuous rains, said Rodolfo Cabias, Abuyog municipal disaster operations officer.

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Disaster teams

“Our disaster teams are now going to these villages to assess the situation and to find out how many families were affected,” Cabias said.

He said minor landslides occurred in barangays Taduk, Paguite, Catipunan and Tinalian, also in Abuyog. No one was reported hurt.

In Southern Leyte, a portion of the Maharlika highway in Sogod town was rendered impassable Thursday morning after a portion Mt. Panjongon was eroded by the rains.

Erosion along highway

Manolo Rojas, assistant district engineer of the Department of Public Works and Highways Southern Leyte Engineering District, said the soil erosion occurred along the highway in Barangay Kahupian.

Rojas said heavy equipment were deployed to clear the road.

Another landslide occurred along the highway in Mahaplag, Leyte, near the boundary with Southern Leyte.

In Mindanao, in Lanao del Norte province, on Thursday 96 families were evacuated from their homes after incessant rains flooded five villages and overflowed a river, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) reported.

The families, composed of 429 individuals, were taken to three evacuation centers in Kauswagan town after downpours triggered by a low pressure area caused the Lapayan River to spill into five barangays: Kawit Oriental, Lapayan, Tugar, Tacub and Libertad, the disaster agency said.

Three houses were damaged in the town and the highway connecting Kauswagan to Bacolod City was flooded and rendered impassable on Wednesday, but the floodwaters receded at 7:30 p.m., the NDRRMC said.

In a report issued by NDRRMC Executive Director Benito Ramos, the agency said a total of 569 persons were displaced by floods, including 120 in Jabonga town in Agusan del Norte province after the water level in Lake Mainit rose.

The NDRRMC also said floods in three barangays in Panabo City in Davao del Norte province on Feb. 14 destroyed P156,700 in crops, livestock and infrastructure.

Wall collapses

In Davao City, six persons were injured when a wall collapsed on them after rains softened its foundation.

Gerry Pedrico, chief of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration in southern Mindanao, said a series of low pressure areas had been bringing rains to Mindanao the past several days.

On Monday alone, Pedrico said, the low pressure area dumped 63.8 millimeters of rains on parts of Mindanao. Low-lying areas of the city were flooded since Monday.

“This is above normal,” he said.

In Sta. Maria, Davao del Sur, rains caused the Buca River to breach its banks and destroy a portion of the road to several villages, according to the provincial disaster risk management council.

Roderick Milana, disaster council chief, said small landslides were reported in remote villages.

No electricity

At least five barangays have had no power for two weeks now since floods felled power lines, according to Sta. Maria Mayor Mila Cabanero.

In Bicol, in Camarines Sur, two deaths were reported as a result of the bad weather.

Provincial civil defense officials said 80-year-old Agripina Milante drowned in floods in Lagonoy town. Lea Alarcio, 18, of Buhi, was the first fatality reported in the province.

Albay Governor Joey Salceda suspended classes in all levels because of the weather. He said rains of up to 18 mm per hour were expected in Albay.

Disaster council officials reported rains of 7.5 mm per hour since Sunday.

Local disaster councils in Albay’s 15 towns and three cities were advised to go on high alert and to prepare residents of low-lying and landslide-prone areas for possible evacuation.—Kristine L. Alave, DJ Yap in Manila; Jani Arnaiz and Joey Gabieta, Inquirer Visayas; Dennis Santos, Orlando Dinoy and Ryan Rosauro, Inquirer Mindanao; and Mar S. Arguelles, Inquirer Southern Luzon

Click here for more weather related news."

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