Faulty warnings, deforestation turned rains ‘deadly’, study finds

Nature’s wrath: An aerial video footage taken on Feb 7 showing the site of a landslide in Davao de Oro province on Mindanao island. — AFP

Faulty warning systems, poverty and deforestation of mountains in the southern Philippines turned recent unseasonably heavy rains into deadly disasters, scientists said in a report.

More than 100 people were killed in landslides and floods in January and February on the country’s second-largest island of Mindanao as the northeast monsoon and a low pressure trough brought downpours.

A study by the World Weather Attribution group found the unusually heavy rain in Mindanao was not “particularly extreme”.

But with people living in landslide-prone areas and shortcomings in weather alerts, the rains became “devastating”.

“We can’t just blame the rain for the severe impacts,” said Richard Ybanez, chief science research specialist at the University of the Philippines’ Resilience Institute, yesterday.

“A range of human factors is what turned these downpours into deadly disasters.”

In the deadliest incident, more than 90 people were killed when the side of a mountain collapsed and smashed into a gold mining village on Feb 6, burying buses and houses.

The scientists found that a higher-than-average rate of poverty in the mountainous region had left people vulnerable to the impacts of heavier rainfall, while “intensified deforestation” had increased the risk of landslides.

The report added that policies, laws and funding of disaster risk management “have largely stalled over the past decades” and were concentrated on post-disaster response. — AFP

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