Evacuation pushed in areas on N. Korean rocket’s path
MANILA, Philippines – Better to overact than to not have acted enough is how National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) executive director Benito Ramos wants to approach preparations against the possible disaster that can result from this week’s rocket launch by North Korea.
Ramos said that a one degree deviation in the path of the missile can cause its debris to fall from the 590 square kilometer area of the Pacific Ocean into mainland Luzon, possibly affecting Northern Luzon and Metro Manila.
Refusing to take any chances, Ramos urged heads of local government units, especially in Northeastern Luzon to prepare evacuation plans as a precaution.
He said it was up to LGUs to decide whether to order a preemptive evacuation ahead of the missile launch, which is expected to occur any day from April 12 to 16.
“We are looking at [evacuation] as a possibility. You have to consider all possibilities. That’s one of the things we’re considering, to require LGUs to prepare their evacuation areas. We’re practically talking of the entire Luzon,” Ramos told reporters at the NDRRMC office in Camp Aguinaldo Tuesday.
He said their worst scenario would be that of mass casualties resulting from a big chunk of rocket debris crashing on a populated area instead of the open sea.
“[Preemptive evacuation] is the responsibility of the LGU. That is up to the LGU,” Ramos said
Possible mass casualties
There was also a possibility that the free falling second stage would fragment into many pieces and scatter across a wide area, possibly causing mass casualties if it happens over land, director Allan Tabell, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) liaison to NDRRMC said.
“We hope that does not happen, but we need to be prepared,” Tabell said.
Ramos said that he was not out to sow unnecessary panic and even thanked those criticizing him for “overacting.”
“This is necessary information and education for our people,” Ramos said. “You cannot expect me to say there is no problem here.”
Ramos said that his preparations for the expected debris that would fall from the rocket “should not be misunderstood as overacting or to sow unnecessary panic among the people.”
He maintained his position that people should stay indoors to avoid getting hurt from the debris in case it would fall on land.
He said the rocket would be flying at seven miles per second, or more than three times the speed of sound, leaving only a very short time to prepare once the rocket has been launched in North Korea.
Ramos said there were possibilities of errors or miscalculations with the rocket, so it was best to be ready for anything.
No-fly, no-sail, no-fishing advisories
The NDRRMC has issued no-fly, no-sail, and no-fishing advisories and the more or less 50,000 combined troops of the Northern Luzon Command and Southern Luzon Command, with components of the Air Force, Navy, Philippine National Police, Philippine Coast Guard are on standby, Ramos said.
Other agencies and organizations such as the reserve forces, the Philippine Red Cross, civilian groups and local government units, are also ready, Ramos said.
Two teams from the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI) are also ready to inspect the debris for any radioactive substances, Tabell said.
The Office of Civil Defense, and all its regional offices in Luzon, about 150 personnel, will be there to orchestrate efforts.
Tabell said that DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo has ordered all local governments practically in the entire Luzon to come up with contingency plans.
Tabell added they were looking to have one evacuation center in each municipality in practically the entire Luzon.
Ramos said they were coordinating with the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) that has two radars situated in Virac, Catanduanes and Aparri, Cagayan that could monitor the rocket and the falling second stage booster once it enters their range.
Ramos believes that the rocket was not a missile containing nuclear weapons or chemical weapons, contrary to what other countries are saying that it is a long range ballistic missile.
North Korea is insisting on its plan to launch the rocket sometime between April 12 to 16 despite calls from neighbor countries Japan and South Korea, and the United States to desist.
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