Please refer to the Appendix for photos of the Guinsaugon event.
BU ID Number: U10782633
IH 870 Assignment #1
SOUTHERN LEYTE – GUINSAUGON VILLAGE LANDSLIDE
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
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).
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
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;
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.
7. Felizardo JC, Tokunaga Y, Sakurai W. St. Bernard Landslide, Southern Leyte Field
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
PHOTOS OF THE 2006 PHILIPPINE LANDSLIDE DISASTER
IN THE VILLAGE OF GUINSAUGON
MAP LOCATING THE VILLAGE OF GUINSAUGON
US MARINES LOOKING FOR CASUALTIES
RESCUERS AND VOLUNTEERS SEARCH FOR BODIES
PRIEST BLESSING A MASS BURIAL SITE
INTERNATIONAL AID ARRIVES TO SOUTHERN LEYTE