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Delta forms task force to save 2,000 families vs new landslides on Mt. Arayat

(Mines and Geosciences Bureau 3)

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO — Pampanga Gov. Dennis Pineda on Monday (Oct. 3) ordered the conduct of dry-runs for the timely and orderly evacuation of 1,531 households facing threats of landslides anew on the Arayat side of Mt. Arayat.

Governor Pineda directed Angelina Blanco, executive officer of the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC) to lead the multi-agency task force to save some 2,000 families in harm’s way in Purok 4 ,5, 6 and 7 in Barangay San Juan Baño.

The governor initiated life-saving measures after the provincial government’s Mt. Arayat Early Warning System detected “intense ground vibrations” between 10:30 pm and 11:30 pm on Sept. 25.

The system, installed by the Information Technology Business Solutions (ITBS) Corp., also recorded the peak intensity of rainfall at 78.4 millimeters on the same night.

Aerial surveys by drones by the PDRRMC and Mines and Geosciences Bureau on Sept. 27 and 28 and a trek by Barangay Captain Froilan Soriano confirmed the fresh landslides just below the summit, expanding the debris flow on Sapang Maeyagas Creek.

It was the same path of landslides triggered by Typhoons Ondoy in 2009, Santi in 2013 and Ulysses in 2020, according to Noel Lacadin, chief of the geology division of the MGB in Central Luzon.

PDRRMO Chief Climate Change Division geologist Zacarias Daniel Baricuatro said ground surveys will have to be done to determine the actual volume of debris.

Lacadin said that before Karding lashed the country last week, some 66,000 cubic meters of boulders, many as big as two-storey houses, littered the Sapang Maeyagas Creek.

Governor Pineda instructed ITBS to widen the giving of information through a siren system and citizen’s app. The alerts are currently shared to Barangay San Juan Baño and the PDRRMC Command Center via online.

The lead time for evacuation was estimated at two hours, according to Dr. Mahar Lagmay, executive director of the University of the Philippines Resilience Institute, in an online meeting with the officials, citing the distance between the sub-villages and danger zone.

Governor Pineda said the two-hour lead time for evacuation by foot should be reduced to several minutes to ensure the safety of the threatened population.

The governor said engineering interventions like reinforcing the deflector dike built after Ondoy will be done after this year’s rainy season.

The local government declared the four sub-villages as permanent danger zones, resettling the residents there. “But people have returned to farm on Mt. Arayat,” Arayat Vice Mayor Emmanuel Bonifacio Alejandrino said in the meeting.