Evacuations during disasters

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By Dennis Limlingan

The Advocate

Monday, June 9, 2014


WITH the afternoon rains being experienced almost regularly these recent days, we may want to ask as to how ready the provincial government is for the rainy season.

Although it's not official yet according to the Philippine Atmospheric and Geophysical and Astronomical Services (PAGASA), the rainy season in the country is now slowly being felt coming as summer has started to bid goodbye.

A friend who has a swimming pool resort has told me the decline in the number of his customers unlike during the peak of the heat of summer during the last couple of months.

Last week, the Provincial Government has announced the availability of some P99.2 million funds intended for disasters this rainy season in Pampanga. While local officials are praying that the province will be spared from fierce typhoons, it has anticipated and prepared for the worst deluge that might happen. It’s the essence of disaster preparedness anyway.

Ms. Angie Blanco, head of the Pampanga Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC) that the said amount is now being used for evacuation preparedness, a component of disaster management that provide people especially those living at disaster high-risk areas their evacuation sites.

Blanco added that a part of the amount shall be used in the clearing of heavily silted waterways to alleviate flooding in many low-lying areas of the province.

Just recently, the PDRRMC has showcased its new disaster rescue equipment and gears that are ready for use should disaster strikes. The said materials include rubber boats and rescue vehicles that might be used in rescuing and putting to safer ground those who might be isolated by floods during heavy rains.

During the onslaught of disasters, one of the things that are hard to do for local officials and rescuers is the evacuation of people who just cannot leave their dwellings whether they are the grandest mansions or lowly hovels.

Some of those being rescued in fact brave rising floods despite their lives being exposed to the perils brought by incessant rains.

During the post-Pinatubo havoc of mudflow called lahar, there were a number of those who perished because they would not want to leave their abodes despite their being at immediate danger zones demarcated by the government experts.

There are also those people who live on esteros that when they overflow, their makeshift mansions are swept away by the flow of water. There are many of these in the City of San Fernando until they were permanently relocated by the city government a few years back.

During the onslaught of floods, people tend to cling on to whatever they can, not because of they are drowning but because they do not want whatever they have be inundated or taken away by rampaging waters.

Others in flooded areas meanwhile do not want to leave their residences because they are afraid that some people might take advantage of the calamity that they loot things from abandoned houses.

Finally, there are those who do not want to leave their houses because of the poor conditions they will have to bear in evacuation centers where they overcrowd. There are also evacuation centers that do not have facilities in them such as running water, toilets and other basic amenities for their temporary stay.

Sometimes, we cannot blame other people who have the hard time to leave their homes because of the said reasons despite the risks they face during disasters.

In some localities, forced evacuations are implemented by local officials. In Arayat town, there were families relocated by the municipal government last year when heavy rains were experienced in different parts of the province. The move has fortunately saved a number of families who were under the threat of being buried by landslides.

It can be recalled that a couple of years ago, landslides buried some residences on the slopes of the said mountain, taking the lives of some people and destroying houses.

In relation to these, the provincial government has appealed to local government units in the province to pass resolutions on forced evacuations in highly vulnerable areas especially those in danger of being flooded and isolated.

As these developed, the provincial government announced that the construction of an evacuation center in Barangay San Isidro, Magalang town is in full swing as part of the province’s preparation for the coming rainy season.

The Provincial Government should be lauded for this.

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For any comments, ideas, suggestions or opinions, text or call The Advocate at 09213636360 or send email at dencious@yahoo.com.

Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on June 10, 2014.

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