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Philippines Natural Disaster Report


  • pg 1
									                                                  Please refer to the Appendix for photos of the Guinsaugon event.

BU ID Number: U10782633
IH 870 Assignment #1

                                THE PHILIPPINES

       The Philippines, officially known as the Republic of the Philippines, is located in

Southeast Asia. Situated in the Pacific Ocean, the Philippines is known as one of the most

hazard prone countries in the world.1 Due to a variety of factors such as location and global

warming, the country has an unusually high incidence of natural hazards such as earthquakes,

volcanic eruptions, tropical cyclones, floods and droughts.1 This particular paper focuses on the

2006 landslide disaster in the central Philippine province of Southern Leyte in which nearly the

entire village of Guinsaugon (one of many villages located in the city of St. Bernard) was buried.

Why is analysis of the Philippines important?

       Due to a combination of the Philippines location on tectonic plate boundaries and being

in an area frequented by tropical cyclones, the Philippines is very susceptible to natural

hazards.1 Because of this, analysis of the Philippines and its relationship with humanitarian

emergencies is of great importance. The frequency of natural disasters paired with most

residents living in severe poverty makes for a deadly combination. Frequent natural disasters

hinder the Philippine government’s ability to reduce the incidence of poverty in vulnerable

communities.1 It must be mentioned that due to inability of the government to revitalize poverty-

laden areas, the economy relies heavily on the billions of dollars that is sent home each year by

the huge Filipino overseas workforce.2 The more one understands the extent of vulnerability in

poverty-stricken areas of the Philippines, the better one is able to effectively prepare and relieve

these communities in disaster circumstances.

Background & Analysis: Why did the landslide occur? What was the aftermath?

       The location of the Guinsaugon village (estimated population of 1,400) is an ideal

environment for a landslide to occur. The area is mountainous, rugged, full of rivers and can

experience extreme levels of rainfall.3 In addition to these physical characteristics, the Southern

Leyte province is also located on the seismically active Philippine Fault.4

       Although there was no direct trigger of the landslide, experts conclude that the torrential

rainfall preceding the landslide was a major contributing factor. 4 Soil on the mountains

surrounding the village was loosened, which helped set the landslide in motion. In addition to

the rainfall, two very small earthquakes (both less than 2.7 on the Richter scale) were recorded

on the day of the landslide, which most likely aided in development of the landslide (which is

also commonly referred to as a rockslide-debris avalanche). 4

Why was this a humanitarian crisis? What was the impact on the people?

       The landslide was devastating to the village of Guinsaugon. Over 1,100 people perished

in the disaster. An entire elementary school was buried by the landslide, resulting in all but two

of the 250 children and school administrators perishing. Although emergency response was

rapid in the region, waist-deep mud and the threat of future landslides hindered rescue efforts.4

The disaster in Guinsaugon is the most devastating landside since the Casita Volcano

rockslide-debris avalanche triggered by Hurricane Mitch in Nicaragua in 1998. 5

       In addition to the extreme loss of life, over 500 houses were buried in mudflow resulting

from the landslide. Other surrounding villages were evacuated due to the ongoing threat of

more landslides. Over 935 families fled their homes to reside in temporary shelters.6

       Following the landslide, the local economy was greatly impacted in the already poverty-

stricken area. Residents of Guinsaugon primarily make a living in agriculture by cultivating rice,

coconut and banana trees.7 Because of the landslide, these forms of livelihood were

demolished, making it impossible for residents to survive both physically and financially.

Clearly, existing poverty is a major hindrance when trying to recover from a humanitarian crisis

such as this.

       The mental health of survivors of the landslide was also greatly impacted. Although the

Philippines Red Cross provided psychological aid after the landslide (mentioned below), long

term programs have been implemented to help mitigate the psychological scar left behind on

many survivors. For example, a program has been implemented for children of the disaster in

which a street theater group performs skits written by the children themselves as a way to

provide stress relief in an entertaining format. After the theater group performs, a discussion is

followed in which children are encouraged “to express and release their feelings and reactions

to the topic presented.”14

       Today, very little remains of the village of Guinsaugon. Trees and foliage have taken

over what used to be a bustling town. Although most families who survived have moved from

the region, some farmers remain and have built homes in areas where their rice fields

miraculously survived.15

Response: What was the national and international response to the disaster?

       All information mentioned in the proceeding paragraphs was obtained via the OCHA

Situation Report provided by the UN Resident Coordinator’s Office (see References for direct

citation).8 The implications of the national/international response to the affected population

were highly beneficial. Without the joining together of several agencies and organizations, aid

and recovery of the region/victims would have been hindered immensely.

       The national government responded to the landslide by deploying search and recovery

teams from the Philippine Air force and Army. In addition to human personnel, the government

deployed various search and rescue vessels such as two airplanes, five helicopters and two


       The Department of Public Works provided machinery such as backhoes and bulldozers

in order to clear rubble and make the town more accessible to emergency personnel. The

Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Philippine Institute of Vulcanology

deployed teams to assess hazards in the area as a precautionary measure in the event that

another landslide would occur.8

       The National Resource Operation Center (NROC) was set up in the neighboring Pasay

City to function as the processing center for donations. The NROC also coordinated all efforts

of member agencies of the National Committee on Disaster Response.

       In addition to humanitarian aid such as water, food, tents and blankets, the Philippines

National Red Cross enlisted personnel to proved psychological assistance to victims of the

landslide. The Department of Social Welfare and Development also distributed food and

clothing to displaced families while the Department of Health provided body bags, IV fluids,

drugs and a trauma team.8

       The international response to the landslide involved many players. Most notably,

UNICEF provided health kits and medicine, while OCHA provided an emergency grant of

$50,000 for relief efforts. The UNDP also provided an additional $100,000.8

       Many countries contributed monetary funds towards relief efforts. In addition to money,

some countries provided physical aid in the form of machinery and power. For example, the

United States sent two ships, 17 helicopters and 1,000 marines to the area. Malaysia also

provided two aircraft and 60 members of the Malaysian Search, Rescue and Medical Team. A

Taiwanese rescue team equipped with heat and movement sensing equipment was also

deployed to the area.8,9

       The following table summarizes which organizations (WHO) carried out what activities

(WHAT) and in which locations (WHERE).

                                    NATIONAL LEVEL
            WHO                          WHAT                                WHERE
Government deployed             search and rescue operations      in Guinsaugon village and
Philippine Air force and Army                                     surrounding communities.
The Department of Social        distributed food and clothing     to displaced residents living in
Welfare and Development                                           temporary shelters and
Department of Health            provided body bags, IV fluids,    to aid in makeshift hospitals in
                                drugs and trauma team             the area.
Department of Public Works      used heavy duty machinery         both in and on the outskirts of
                                                                  town to make it more
                                                                  accessible and safe for
                                                                  residents and emergency
The Department of               assessed the land and             in mountainous/waterlogged
Environment and Natural         aftermath of landslide            areas that were prone to more
Resources and the Philippine                                      landslides.
Institute of Vulcanology
Philippines National Red        provided additional food,         to displaced residents living in
Cross                           water, blankets, shelter, etc.,   the temporary shelters and
                                as well as psychological aid      hospital provided by the Red
National Resource Operation     processed and distributed         to victims and emergency
Center/ Department of Social    donations                         personnel in the area.
Welfare and Development
                                INTERNATIONAL LEVEL
            WHO                        WHAT                                  WHERE
UNICEF                          provided health relief kits and   to emergency personnel
                                medicine                          located in the village.
OCHA and UNDP                   provided over $150,000 in         to the personnel responsible
                                emergency funds                   for assisting the displaced.
USA*                            Provided ship vessels,            to aid in recovery efforts in the
                                helicopters and marines           village.
Malaysia*                       Provided aircraft/60 members      in the village and surrounding
                                of the Malaysian Search,          communities.
                                Rescue and Medical Team
Taiwan*                         Provide heat and motion           to the emergency personnel
                                sensing equipment for search      located in the village who
                                and rescue purposes               were competent in using the
*Many other countries contributed money as well (including the US and Taiwan that are
mentioned above), such as Australia ($740,000 US Dollars), Japan ($211,000) and China
($248,000) - just to mention a few.

Was the Cluster Approach used in recovery operations?

       The Cluster approach was utilized in the Guinsaugon village landslide disaster. After

the onset of the landslide and chaos broke out, partnerships (or clusters) between UN

agencies, the International and Philippine Red Cross, international organizations, NGOs

and WHO took place. Specifically, for example, an environmental health cluster was

formed that consisted of OXFAM, Plan International, World Vision and local sanitary

inspectors. This group worked together to monitor water, sanitation and health promotion

interventions in shelters.10 In addition, the UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination

(UNDAC) Team was deployed to support the local government, the UN Resident

Coordinator and UN Country Team. UNDAC also organized cluster meetings.9

What can be learned from the recovery efforts of the landslide?

       Although many things can be taken away from reviewing the recovery efforts after

the landslide, of most importance is the use of science to not only locate victims, but to

predict future landslides in susceptible geographic locations.

       Five days after the landslide, after no survivors had been found during a 24-hour

period, earth-penetrating radar equipment was used to survey the land. This led to the

conclusion that because of the force of the landslide, the village of Guinsaugon had literally

moved and recovery teams were looking for survivors in the wrong place.11 Had scientists

been deployed to the site within a few hours of the landslide (not a few days after the

event), perhaps more lives could have been saved.12

       In addition to locating survivors, scientific methods could have been used as hazard

assessment tools in order to predict where the landslide would occur so that the disaster

could have been mitigated or properly planned for.13 Following the Guinsaugon landslide

event, scientists recommended that better community education of landslide “warning signs”

needed to be taught, hoping that community awareness would lead to officials better

preparing and evacuating populations that are in harm’s way. 11 Regardless, according to

Alfredo Mahar Lagmay, a volcano tectonic specialist at the University of the Philippines, any

rescue operation “should be scientific from the start”.11


       The landslide in Guinsaugon village was disastrous on many levels. The population

was decimated and those who survived were faced with homelessness and loss of their

livelihoods. Survivors were unable to provide for their families due to the destruction of the

land/agriculture, their main source of income.

       National and international response and recovery efforts were great, as many

countries gave money and provided search and rescue support. From this disaster, we

have learned that using the Cluster approach is incredibly important when faced with a

disaster situation due to the large number of actors involved. We have also learned that

scientific methods need to be used to predict and plan for disaster situations, as well as aid

in recovery efforts after a disaster such as this has occurred.

       In conclusion, the poverty-laden country of the Philippines has been tested time and

time again with natural disasters of all sorts. In order for the country to cope and recover

from the destruction these catastrophes bring, officials need to predict and prepare for the

disasters as much as humanly possible so that lives are not lost.


1.    World Bank, Natural Disaster Coordinating Council. Natural Disaster Risk Management
      in the Philippines: Enhancing Poverty Alleviation Through Disaster Reduction. 2004;
      33822: iii-62.

2.    BBC News. Philippines Country Profile. 2007; Available at:
      pacific/country_profiles/1262783.stm?ad=1. Accessed 6/3/10.

3.    Fleury M. Southern Leyte Philippines Landslide 2006. 2009; Available at:
      06. Accessed 6/3/10.

4.    BBC News. Mud wipes out Philippines village. 2006; Available at:
      pacific/4722702.stm. Accessed 6/3/10.

5.    Evans SG, Guthrie RH, Roberts NJ, Bishop NF. The disastrous 17 February 2006
      rockslide-debris avalanche on Leyte Island, Philippines: a catastrophic landslide in
      tropical mountain terrain. Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences 2007;7:89-

6.    Carcella N. Update on the tragedy that occurred in the central Philippines. 2006;
      Available at: http://www.achr.net/000ACHRTsunami/Philippines/Mudslides06.html.
      Accessed 6/3/10.

7.    Felizardo JC, Tokunaga Y, Sakurai W. St. Bernard Landslide, Southern Leyte Field
      Report. 2007;1:1-8.

8.    OCHA. Philippines: Landslide OCHA Situation Report No. 3. 2006;3:1-3.

9.    Center of Excellence in Disaster Management & Humanitarian Assistance. Philippines:
      Leyte Landslide Update. 2006; Available at: http://www.coe-
      dmha.org/leyte/phil022406.htm. Accessed 6/3/10.

10.   Abo FJ. Public Health Situation Report as of February 26, 2006. Asian Disaster
      Preparedness Center, 2006:1-7.

11.   Stone R. Disaster Relief: Too Late, Earth Scans Reveal the Power of a Killer
      Landslide. Science 2006;311(5769):1844-1845.

12.   Lagmay AM, Tengonciang AM, Rodolpho R, Soria JL, Baliatan E, Paguican E, et al.
      Science guides search and rescue after the 2006 Philippine Landslide. Disasters

13.   Catane S, Zarco MA, Saturay R. Landslide-Risk Reduction Strategies and Practices
      in the Philippines. University of the Philippines 2008:1-4.

14.   Mitchell T. Children as agents of change for Disaster Risk Reduction: Lessons from El
      Salvador and the Philippines. Children in a Changing Climate 2009:1-48.

15.   Arnaiz J. Guinsaugon 4 years after tragedy: life slowly moving. Philippine Daily Inquirer



                         IN THE VILLAGE OF GUINSAUGON

Reference: http://coe-dmha.org/Leyte/Phil021806_files/image002.jpg

The Landslide
Reference: http://www.life.com/image/56883696

Reference: http://www.defense.gov/home/

Reference: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/02/17/world/main1325862_page2.shtml

Reference: http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/english/doc/2006-02/20/content_521691.htm

Reference: http://www.samarnews.com/news_clips3/news48.htm


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