Monday, December 16, 2013

Cebu ready to build back better

Denis McClean in the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction: The Philippines Province of Cebu prides itself on its zero casualty policy when it comes to disasters. As of yesterday, it had recorded just 73 of the 6,057 deaths so far attributed to Typhoon Haiyan despite the widespread damage and loss to housing, critical infrastructure and agriculture especially in northern Cebu where Haiyan made two of its six landfalls in the Philippines.

Governor Hilario Davide III explained: “I would credit the low fatalities first to the people themselves and the local government units who heeded our advice and warnings to evacuate people from the areas that were most vulnerable to the typhoon.”

Some estimates put the number of people who evacuated in Cebu as high as one million. The Governor also said that the earthquake which hit in October may have been a strange blessing in disguise as it gave people a sharp reminder of the threat posed by natural hazards.

Memories are also still vivid of the typhoon which struck the city of Cebu and caused much death and destruction 22 years ago. Three people died on that occasion in the house of Melita Labarejos who is now in charge of the disaster risk reduction and climate adaptation planning for the Province.

She attributes the difference between the death toll in north Cebu and other parts of the country to “the massive and persistent” education campaign conducted by the Province’s Disaster Risk Reduction Councils in the affected areas with the support of the media.

Her view is that it is not enough to simply tell people to evacuate because a storm surge is expected. You have to spell out clearly the danger that comes with it....

Sunset in Samboan, Cebu, the Philippines, shot by Cristian Bortes, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

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