Friday, March 03, 2006

Purchase rain gauges, sirens, high-risk CL areas told

By Ding Cervantes The Philippine Star

SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga — The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) has urged officials of areas prone to landslides and flash floods in Central Luzon to equip themselves this early with at least two disaster-warning devices amid threats of a wet La Niña phenomenon.

"We have formally told mayors of endangered towns to immediately purchase rain gauges and perhaps, sirens or other effective devices to communicate with their constituents (should a possible natural calamity occur)," MGB geologist Orlando Pineda told The STAR.

Pineda said such devices are vital particularly in the high-risk towns of San Jose in Tarlac; Dingalan, Baler and San Luis, all in Aurora; and Gabaldon and Bongabon, both in Nueva Ecija.

He also urged local officials to construct more toilets and water pumps in public schools normally used as evacuation sites.

"These additional toilets and water sources should be padlocked and used only when the evacuees come so we can avoid unsanitary conditions that could endanger the health of evacuees," he said.

Pineda, however, said his office is only 20-percent complete in its geo-hazard map of Central Luzon.

The geo-hazard map will identify and classify areas in the region facing threats during natural calamities.

Lack of funds has stalled the mapping project. The Department of Budget and Management (DBM), however, released recently some P500,000 to Pineda’s office following the killer landslide that buried Barangay Guinsaugon in Saint Bernard, Southern Leyte.

Pineda said a rain gauge would enable residents of a high-risk area to determine if the volume of rainfall has reached 100 millimeters, which is a cause for worry since landslides and flash floods could occur.

A rainfall gauge costs as much as P15,000 although they could be improvised, he said, adding that the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration can help local officials and train gauge readers.

Pineda said high-risk areas should have effective communication devices to warn residents.

"The devices must relay sound that cannot be mistaken for something else," he said, adding that the ringing of bells in chapels or churches might be inadequate since bell sounds are normally used to relay other messages.

With fresh funds now available, the regional MGB office is now studying the dangers faced by residents of the low-lying Pampanga towns of Minalin, Apalit, Sto. Tomas, Masantol and Macabebe.

Pineda said an MGB team is set to inspect the Arnedo dike, whose vital portions have reportedly eroded.

"The collapse of sections of the dike will cause tremendous flooding in many towns in Pampanga," he said.

Earlier, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in Central Luzon cited studies showing that 322,144 families in 1,277 barangays across the region face threats of landslides or floods.

Grace Zablan, planning chief of the regional DSWD office based here, said the biggest number of threatened families is in Pampanga, where 99,322 families live in 283 flood-prone barangays in 20 out of 21 towns, excluding Angeles City.

In Angeles City, 1,376 families living along riverbanks in nine barangays also face danger.

"With estimates of 322,144 families in danger from calamities this rainy season in Central Luzon, the DSWD is prepared to come in and help about 30 percent of them or about 96,643 families," Zablan said.

She said the regional DSWD office has allocated some P57 million for the needs of this 30 percent of the total endangered population in the region.

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