The Philippines is no stranger to powerful typhoons. Not a year passes without a tropical storm or typhoon unleashing floods and landslides across the archipelago that kill and leave families homeless. But nothing quite prepared the country for storm Sendong (international name: Washi), which hit the southern island of Mindanao last weekend.
The scale of Sendong’s devastation is so overwhelming, it is being likened to that of a tsunami. The storm caused flash floods and mudslides from denuded forests that swept away houses, vehicles, farm animals and other debris, and drowned people in their sleep.
The death toll is now over 1,000 – mostly in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan. Sendong is now one of the deadliest disasters that has ever struck the Philippines, officials say. Another 1,000 people are reported missing and presumed dead.
The country was caught unawares. But, apparently, there had warnings of possible disasters waiting to happen in those parts. The warnings just went unheeded. “And so, over the weekend, the warnings came true, and nature unleashed its fury in Mindanao,” says the Philippine Star in an editorial.
The newspaper also carries an article written by Neric Acosta, a native of Mindanao, who now serves as presidential adviser for environmental protection. He was part of a group that had earlier identified the areas devastated by Sendong as “vulnerable climate hotspots” that are prone to storm surges and flooding.
If people had listened, maybe the disaster could have been mitigated. But back then, they were called alarmists.