The landslides in Punong, Gingoog City blocking the national highway (these landslides have since been cleared); Photos by Jonard Albopera
I’m not sure if it’s in the national news, but Tropical-Storm-turned-Low-Pressure-Area Agaton (international name: Lingling) hit Gingoog City very hard. Although some places were hit by floods, the main problem here is landslides.
The landslide in Balantian, before clearing operations; Photo by Che Navigar
The landslide in Balantian, after clearing operations by the CDRRMC and DPWH; Photo by me
There is, of course, the very visible landslide along the highway near Barangay Punong. But if you go into the hinterland barangays, there are several areas were landslides have taken place. The other day, we went to Sitio Taon-taon in Barangay Bal-ason, which had previously been inaccessible due to a landslide in Balantian. There was a massive landslide there, covering seven hectares and destroying the community’s water system as well as five farms. In other barangays in the upland, there are reports of many other landslides although we have not seen this for ourselves.
The worst part is that there is still a very real risk for more landslides to occur. Much of the soil has become loose due to the on-and-off rains that poured over Gingoog City for two weeks. Some of the cliffs even have visible cracks with water seeping through.
We all know water = soil erosion = possible landslides or rockslides.
7-hectare landslide in Taon-taon, Bal-ason; Photo by me
The barangays most at risk are also the barangays most in need. Heavy water currents have destroyed a road (which had a spillway underneath it) that leads to four barangays: Kamanican, Kalipay, Sangalan and Eureka. In effect, you have to cross a river over rocks and chunks of surviving road in order to get to the other side. Word is that another spillway road going to the higher barangays of Sangalan and Eureka has also been damaged, making that place even more inaccessible. This has made food fairly scarce in the area, considering that it cuts them off from food suppliers and markets at the city center. It does not help either that there is massive unaccounted-for agricultural damage. Two weeks’ worth of rainfall have destroyed plenty crops, not to mention cut off the supply of livestock feeds. Some of the community members, during our first wave of relief distribution in Kamanikan claimed that they had been living off just bananas since nothing else was available.
Destroyed spillway road near Kamanikan; Photo from KPMFI file
Our organization managed to bring some relief goods, but our initial counts were for the evacuees. Personally, I did not expect that the road damage would be so bad, and the dependence on outside sources of food so great. Entire communities have been affected. It simply isn’t enough. The people are, of course, doing their best to supply their own food but with much effort.
We dove into disaster response for Gingoog City without any major funders, so our resources are extremely limited. We have been involved in disaster relief operations in Cagayan de Oro (TS Sendong/Washi, 2011) Davao Oriental (Ty Pablo/Bopha, 2012), Bohol (earthquake, 2013) and Leyte/Panay (Ty Yolanda/Haiyan, 2013).What a difference it makes when a disaster is much publicized versus when it is hidden in obscurity!
It breaks my heart to have only about 600 relief packs available, when there are more than a thousand people in need. In my experience with the Bohol earthquake, for instance, we even had enough relief packs for a second wave to our partner areas!
Relief distribution in Taon-taon, Bal-ason; Photos by me
Fortunately, the LGU has also been sending in some help, but whether this will be enough I can only say for sure when we go up to some of the most remote communities.
If there is any other organization out there seeking to help communities affected by Agaton/Lingling, please choose Gingoog. The population here is quite manageable, compared to other areas. It’s just that there aren’t a lot of resources coming in. 😦
Kid traipsing around muddied farm in Taon-taon, Bal-ason like a boss. The only thing I could think about the whole time was “schistosomiasis”; Photo by me