Mindanao region, in southern Philippines, seldom gets hit by a typhoon that causes devastation and lose of lives. If at all, what it gets is the tail-end of the storm that brings slight winds and rains.
Most typhoons in the Philippines originate from the eastern side and almost always make a landfall on either Luzon or the Visayas islands.
Not this time, however.
‘Sendong’ (international code name ‘Washi’) was not really packing killer winds, but what it had was a reservoir of moisture that mercilessly started releasing rains as it was heading towards the region and when it made its landfall, its incessant downpour for 12 hours, which is the equivalent to more than a month of average rain in the area, was too much for the rivers and other waterways to contain, thus, causing surprising, but devastating flash floods and landslides, most especially in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan.
What made the situation worst is the complacency and the underestimation of the residents on the effects of the continuous rains – that what has been happening in Luzon and in the Visayas, in the aftermath of a storm, could never happen to them.
Needless to say that their neglect for preparation was borne out of the fact that the region is unaccustomed to visits of typhoons and on the belief that the region is safe from landslides and floods, the likes that ‘Ondoy’ and ‘Pepeng’ left death and devastation in Luzon.
As it was, more than 400 people were killed while they slept, rousting hundreds of others to their rooftops and turning Cagayan de Oro and Iligan into muddy, debris-filled waterways that were strewn with overturned vehicles, toppled trees and demolished houses. About 100,000 was reported to have been left homeless.
With this calamitous event, the myth that flash floods and landslides and more than 11 feet of inundation could not happen in Mindanao has already been disproved. In fact, it may no longer happen far in-between, as when they say that ‘Sendong’ was the first storm that brought tremendous damage to parts of Mindanao since the 70s. It could now occur as frequent as endless rains come.
Perhaps, we can blame global warming for making the weather go haywire and unpredictable.
But, hey, look at our own environment, too.
What have we been doing to our forests? Why aren’t we apprehending illegal loggers? Why are we allowing the rampant slash-and-burn farmers destroy the natural growth of plants up in the mountains just so they could replace it with their own crops? Aren’t our rivers filled up with silts, rocks, stones and unnecessary debris that tries to hamper the natural flow of water?
Just a few questions to both our national and local government authorities.
(Note: A day after this was written the death toll rose to 652 with over 800 missing – and, I would presume, still counting.)