Storm surge, other terms to be made simple
President Benigno Aquino III has been among Pagasa’s most severe critics, often lecturing its forecasters publicly to use layman’s terms in its bulletins.
Now, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) is working with linguists to ensure that people fully understand the threat posed by typhoons, floods and other events, the officials said.
Giant walls of seawater, called “storm surges” generated by Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan), the strongest recorded typhoon to hit land, were blamed for most of the 7,350 lives lost in the Visayas last year.
Even though the hardest-hit areas were warned beforehand, the weather service and other officials later admitted that the victims were unfamiliar with the term “storm surge,” which they said failed to adequately convey the deadly threat.
“People need to be told in a language they can understand the dangers that they face,” said Roberto Añonuevo, executive director of the Commission on the Filipino Language.
“Typhoons and storms are a common occurrence, so they (people) become complacent. This will help them to respond. This is potentially life-saving,” Añonuevo said.
About 20 typhoons and storms hit the country each year, triggering floods and landslides that kill hundreds.
Earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are also an ever-present threat in the Philippines, which forms part of a “Ring of Fire” of Pacific islands formed by volcanic activity.
“People with lower levels of education at times have trouble understanding technical terms,” said Lani Aquino, a Pagasa public relations officer.
Storm surges in dialects
“So what happens is they do not make the necessary precautions for certain meteorological events,” Aquino said.
The Pagasa spokesperson said the agency was reviewing a 300-word glossary of more easily understood weather terms prepared by the language commission, including the words for storm surges in the country’s major dialects.
Aside from Filipino-language weather bulletins, Añonuevo said the Commission on the Filipino Language would also seek to make English-language weather bulletins, which routinely throw up obscure terms such as “intertropical convergence zone,” more intelligible.
The commission’s linguists are also translating English-language disaster-preparedness manuals put out by the civil defense office, he added. AFP