Itogon, Benguet—Authorities in the Cordilleras will conduct forced evacuations from landslide-prone areas in the entire region, after the weather bureau announced that a new storm threatens Northern Luzon.
Cordillera Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council chairman and Office of Civil Defense Cordillera Regional Director Ruben Carandang said the council has been put on red alert since reports indicated that tropical storm “Trami” would enter the Philippine area of responsibility on Sunday.
The storm, which will be called “Paeng” when it enters the country, is expected to make landfall by Tuesday.
He said even residents who do not want to leave will be evacuated, after Typhoon “Ompong” left 95 people dead, most of them killed in landslides.
“This is a lesson learned,” Carandang said. “Maybe there will be no more hard-headed people who will refuse to vacate their areas.”
Police and barangay officials would enforce evacuations once an area is declared a very dangerous area by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau.
In earlier briefings, Itogon Mayor Victorio Palangdan said residents had repeatedly been urged to evacuate, but the people refused to go.
“We will rely on PAGASA because they have a system, a threshold based on the amount of rainfall that will increase the possibility of landslide. PAGASA and MGB will be very important in our contingency plan,” Carandang said.
Police Regional Office Cordillera Regional Director, Chief Supt. Rolando Nana said people in highly vulnerable areas would be forced to be moved out.
“Let us help each other in evacuating people to safe ground. We are calling on our residents to cooperate and not be hard-headed when they are told to evacuate,” Nana said in Filipino.
As of 6 pm Friday, the CDRRMC has recorded 59 deaths due to “Ompong,” with 42 others still missing in the whole town of Itogon, Benguet.
Liza Soccoro Manzano, supervising science research specialist of the MGB Geohazard Assessment team, said the area in Ucab where the landslide took place and other areas, which was used as the incident command post for the operation at ground zero, is highly dangerous.
On the site, cracks on rip-raps protecting the sides of the mountain, which were not present during the first days of the operation, have become more visible day by day.
One crack, for instance, is now about two inches wide with several other cracks becoming visible.
With “Trami” expected to be felt in the locality, she said there should be no person in the area to prevent a repeat of the incident here.
She said even vehicles were prevented from going to the area, saying the vibration and weight contribute to susceptibility of the mountain to erosion, adding that nobody should be allowed entry.
Manzano said the amount of rainfall that “Trami” brings may aggravate the situation.
Meanwhile, Brig. Gen. Leopoldo Imbang, commander of the 503rd Brigade covering the Cordillera, said there are only 30 persons in the search, rescue and retrieval operation. They are aided by five canine dogs and four backhoes doing the digging.
Imbang said the bunk house, the one used as a chapel where the residents allegedly sought refuge before “Ompong” made a landfall, had been removed. However, only six bodies were recovered.