Landslide closes major road in Southern Leyte

MAASIN CITY, Southern Leyte -- Heavy downpour over the past days in this province has triggered mudslides and rockslides that rendered a portion of a major highway impassable since Monday, January 16.

The landslide occurred Monday noon in Kahupian village in Sogod town, just a few kilometers away from the tall Agas-Agas Bridge. The road section is a vital link from Luzon to Mindanao as part of the nautical highway’s eastern seaboard route.

Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Southern Leyte District Engineer Ma. Margarita Junia said 300 to 700 cubic meters of rocks and mud covered the road and closed two lanes of the national road.

“We are having a hard time removing landslide debris since mud and rocks continuously pour down while clearing operation is ongoing. We also have to consider the safety of our workers,” Junia said.

Gideon Sacro, chief of the district office maintenance section, said the target is to make the road passable on Tuesday, January 17, but work progress heavily depends on the weather condition.

“We are still experiencing heavy rains and poor visibility in the province,” Sacro said.

With the road closure, Mindanao-bound buses and trucks have to pass through the longer route of Baybay City-Bato-Bontoc Road to get to Liloan or San Ricardo ports in Southern Leyte.

In Camang village in San Ricardo town, a rockslide partially closed a road section on Monday morning. As of Tuesday noon, the road is only passable to light vehicles.

Another landslide also closed a highway in Olisihan village in Sogod town for several hours. The road was cleared from debris early Tuesday morning.

Prior to this week’s landslide caused by a low pressure area and tail end of a cold front, the DPWH in Southern Leyte has been stepping up preparations for the rainy season since the province is vulnerable to rockslides and mudslides.

Last year, the DPWH had set aside P50 million for slope protection in landslide-prone road sections, P20 million for drainage rehabilitation, and P27 million for the construction of a flood control system in Maasin City.

The DPWH field office has also identified specific areas in Sogod to San Ricardo for prepositioning of heavy equipments for road clearing in the event of rainfall-induced landslides and rockslides.

For this year, the district office will pilot the P109-million project that would completely prevent rock fall and soil erosion, utilizing Swiss technology.

The project will prioritize Kahupian village in Sogod for the stabilization control project in the most critical sections, which has ascending roadway and multiple blind curves.

The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) ranked Southern Leyte province as the seventh most vulnerable to heavy landslides in the Philippines.

Based on MGB’s geohazard mapping and assessment, the province recorded a 78 percent landslide probability. (PNA)
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