31 October 2022

Kusiong village in the Philippines: perception vs reality for hazard events

Posted by Dave Petley

Kusiong village in the Philippines: multiple landslide fatalities

On Thursday 27 October 2022 heavy rainfall associated with Severe Tropical Storm Nalgae (known locally as Severe Tropical Storm Paeng) triggered a large landslide in Kusiong village in southern Maguindanao province in the Philippines.  To date 20 bodies have been recovered, but there are concerns that 80 to 100 more people may have lost their lives.  The village is located at 7.142, 124.088.

GMA News has this image of the aftermath of the landslide – the level of damage appears to be very serious:-

The aftermath of the landslide at Kusiong on the Philippines.

The aftermath of the landslide at Kusiong on the Philippines. Image from BARMM FB / GMA News.


Several news agencies are reporting that this disaster arose in part because of a dangerous interaction between perceptions of different hazards.  ABC News provides a good overview:-

In August 1976, an 8.1-magnitude earthquake and a tsunami in the Moro Gulf that struck around midnight left thousands of people dead and devastated coastal provinces in one of the deadliest natural disasters in Philippine history.

Lying between the Moro Gulf and 446-meter Mount Minandar, Kusiong was among the hardest hit by the 1976 catastrophe. The village never forgot the tragedy. Elderly villagers who survived the tsunami and powerful earthquake passed on the nightmarish story to their children, warning them to be prepared.

“Every year, they hold drills to brace for a tsunami. Somebody was assigned to bang the alarm bells and they designated high grounds where people should run to,” Sinarimbo said. “Villagers were even taught the sound of an approaching big wave based on the recollection of the tsunami survivors.”

“But there wasn’t as much focus on the geo-hazards on the mountainside,” he said.

On the day of the disaster, the people of Kusiong feared a storm surge, understandably, and so sheltered in a church on higher ground.  They were not prepared for a mudslide from the flanks of Mount Minandar, which has caused such high levels of loss.

This is a salutary tale.  I have seen on multiple previous occasions this tendency to focus on one hazard at the exclusion of others, and in particular to exclude landslide hazards when considering tsunami / storm surge and/or earthquakes.

Kusiong village is a tragic reminder of why a multi-hazard perspective is always needed.