Tropical storms Urduja and Vinta battered the Philippines in December 2017. Despite advances in disaster risk reduction efforts of the country, the twin December storms caused numerous deaths in the Visayas and Mindanao regions. Analysis of these events shows that alerts raised during the Pre-Disaster Risk Assessment (PDRA) for both storms were largely ineffective because they were too broad and general calling for forced evacuations in too many provinces. Repeated multiple and general warnings that usually do not end up in floods or landslides, desensitize people and result in the cry-wolf effect where communities do not respond with urgency when needed. It was unlike the previous execution of PDRA from 2014 to early 2017 by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), which averted mass loss of lives in many severely impacted areas because of hazard-specific, area-focused and time-bound warnings. PDRA must reinstate specific calls, where mayors of communities are informed by phone hours in advance of imminent danger to prompt and ensure immediate action. Mainstreaming Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction information using probabilistic (multi-scenario) hazard maps is also necessary for an effective early warning system to elicit appropriate response from the community. The paper aims to discuss these issues.
Methods of early warning through the PDRA of the National Disaster Mitigation and Management Council (NDRRMC) of the Philippines during tropical storm Urduja and Typhoon Vinta were assessed in this study and compared to the previous PDRA system from 2014 to early 2017.
It was found out that the numerous casualties were due to inadequate warning issued during the approach of the tropical cyclones. During an impending hazard, warnings must be accurate, reliable, understandable and timely. Despite the availability of maps that identified safe zones for different communities, warnings raised during the PDRA for both tropical cyclones were deemed too general calling for evacuations of whole provinces. As such, not all communities were evacuated in a timely manner because of failure in the key elements of an effective early warning system.
To avoid future disasters from happening, it is recommended that the PDRA reinstate its hazards-specific, area-focused and time-bound warnings. Similarly, to increase the resilience of communities, more work on mainstreaming of Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk and Vulnerability Reduction systems for communities must be done as well. Learning from the lessons of these previous disasters will enable communities, their leaders and every stakeholder, not to repeat the same mistakes in the future.
The authors thank the DOST-ASTI for the automated station data, and Feye Andal and Angelica Apolinario for help with the preparation of maps. The Satellite imagery are from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).
Lagmay, M. and Racoma, B.A. (2019), "Lessons from tropical storms Urduja and Vinta disasters in the Philippines", Disaster Prevention and Management, Vol. 28 No. 2, pp. 154-170. https://doi.org/10.1108/DPM-03-2018-0077
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