Mitigating impacts of disasters
BY: ERROL A. GATUMBATO
The earthquake and tsunami, which recently battered Japan are grim reminders that disasters seem unstoppable and may occur anytime and anywhere. Probably, no modern inventions and technologies would ever prevent natural catastrophes to happen, although they may be detected prior to their occurrence with the advancement of modern early warning and monitoring devices. Just like volcanic eruptions, typhoons, and hurricanes, tsunami and earthquakes are natural phenomena beyond the control of any person. These natural calamities are destructive and deadly forces of nature that will spare no one, not even a highly advanced industrial state, like Japan. There are scientific explanations why these natural calamities happen, but more than knowing such explanations and reasons, it is also important that disaster preparedness and mitigating measures shall be in place and adopted to avoid tremendous devastations and sufferings they likely create to the Earth and its occupants, both living and non-living creations.
Volcanic eruptions are not remote possibilities in the Philippines because of the presence of several active volcanoes in the country. In fact, numerous eruptions already transpired in the past. However, in the event major volcanic eruptions will occur, God forbids as many people might think, there would be horrifying impacts because most surrounding areas of these active volcanoes are already occupied with human settlement and associated development. The four-kilometer permanent danger zone of these active volcanoes, like the Kanla-on Volcano in Negros Island, Taal Volcano in Batangas, Bulusan Volcano in Sorsogon and Mayon Volcano in Albay, are already vastly encroached with permanent settlements who have become political units through the years. Although not within the hazard zone, there is also a geothermal power plant in the low lying area of Kanla-on Volcano. Some of these communities have already experienced the tragic brunt of volcanic eruption, like in Mayon Volcano, but they keep on insisting to stay in the danger zone since they have no other places to resettle. The issue of settlement in permanent danger zones of active volcanoes is something we need to address as part of the disaster preparedness of the Philippines.
The recent earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand may also serve as a wakeup call for the Philippines to scrutinize its capacity and resiliency in coping with the adverse impacts of these natural catastrophic events. This is important consideration in risk reduction and preparedness in as much that high-rise buildings are now proliferating in major urban centers, particularly in Metro Manila, while many urbanized areas are setting in major geological fault lines of the country.
Landslide and flood susceptible areas are enormously widespread throughout the Philippines archipelago. Landslides and flooding are not new to us. Who could ever forget the landslide in Saint Bernard in Leyte that washed out the entire community, and the typhoon Ondoy in Metro Manila, to name a few? The heavy flooding that occurred in various parts of the country had already sacrificed numerous lives, not to mention the unaccountable damages they brought to property and economy, as a whole.
Adding to the list of calamities is the threat of tsunami, which is usually trigged by earthquake, just like what exactly happened in Japan last week. Alert level had been raised in the Philippines because of the possible occurrence of tsunami in coastal areas facing the Pacific Ocean resulting from the recent 8.9 magnitude earthquake in Japan. Videos and photos showing the devastations wrought by the Japan’s earthquake and tsunami are unimaginable, and no one would ever think to be present if such unlikely circumstances happen. While we don’t need to be paranoid on possibilities of these calamities to occur, we shall not be in the losing end if we take necessary precautions. It is therefore very important that at this point in time when nature seems to strike its mighty force against the people, appropriate and effective risk reduction and management measures shall be implemented in various levels of governance. Apparently, we will not also solely rely to the government, because we can make cautionary measures individually and collectively as a community.
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