6 December 2012

Landslide losses from Typhoon Bopha / Pablo

Posted by Dave Petley

The last 24 hours has seen the inevitable if depressing steady increase in the reported losses from Typhoon Bopha / Pablo in the Philippines.  According to the latest NRDDMC report, the current confirmed death toll stands at about 322, although this is expected to rise further as 378 people are reported missing.  The frustration of course is that this level of loss was very predictable, although without the preemptive evacuations it is likely that it would have been very much higher of course. This shows all too clearly that it is not possible to achieve genuinely effective disaster risk reduction with short-term measures.  Long term planning is required, and countries such as the Philippines need external support to be able to implement effective measures.

The most seriously affected area appears to be New Bataan in the Campostela Valley.  This is the Google Earth perspective view of the town, presumably the debris flows were sourced from the mountains in the background:


The NRDDMC data indicates that 86 people ae confirmed dead and a further 343 people are missing in New Bataan, a genuinely appalling toll.  Another 55 people are reported to have been killed and eight are missing in a landslide in Monkayo in the same area.  At the moment, there are few images that give a perspective on the actual events at New Bataan, but this one, from here, suggests large-scale debris flows from the mountains:


This is consistent with the most detailed report of the events in New Bataan, from this news report in the PhilStar, which states:

The farming town of New Bataan in Compostela Valley lies far from the river, so residents thought they were safe from flooding as typhoon “Pablo” barreled across Mindanao.  At around 4 a.m. on Tuesday, however, amid raging wind and pounding rain, residents heard a thunderous sound. And then a wall of mud and debris, followed by rampaging waters, came crashing down into the town. In minutes, houses were washed away and two army camps manned by troops preparing for search and rescue operations were wiped out. Similar scenes played out in other parts of the province….Lt. Col. Lyndon Paneza, spokesman for the Army’s 10th Infantry Division based in Mawab town, said heavy rains dumped by Pablo in the province on Monday triggered a landslide in the mountains that blocked an upstream river in New Bataan. Before 8 a.m. on Tuesday, the river burst its banks and mud and water came rampaging down to New Bataan.  “Our troops and the civilian residents in New Bataan never expected the flash flood as the area is far from the river,” Paneza said.