'Lawin' likened to 'Yolanda': Is gov't more prepared now?

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Government projections show super typhoon Lawin may be comparable to typhoon Yolanda, with its strength, wide area of  coverage and possible destructive effects.

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"Pwede natin siyang i-consider na [We can consider it a] super typhoon compared to Yolanda," PAGASA weather specialist Jose Mendoza says.

But the National Disaster Risk  Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) hopes Lawin's effects will not be as destructive as Yolanda.

NDRRMC executive director, Usec. Ricardo Jalad, stresses the government is ready to counter the impact of super typhoon Lawin.

"May sapat na preparasyon na tayo, may sapat na advisories sa local government units para sa kaukulang aksyon."

[We have enough preparations, we have enough advisories for local government to act accordingly.]

Considered one of the most powerful typhoons ever to hit land, Yolanda  led to  deaths of  more than 6,000 – most of them victims of storm surges in Tacloban City.

Inspite of warnings then of a possible storm surge of  5 to 6 meters, residents were unaware of the danger.

Nearly three years after, the government now has Project NOAH (Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards). It has come up with hazard maps detailing risks of provinces  for floods, landslides, and storm surges.

The NDRRMC says Lawin could cause up to 2 to 5 meters of storm surges in coastal areas in northern provinces.

Storm surges over 3 meters high are expected to cause severe damage to coastal communities.

Project NOAH executive director, Dr. Mahar Lagmay says local government units can easily access the maps to know which areas are dangerous for potential threats, and so immediately evacuate residents.

"Tignan na natin ngayon para alam natin, dahil may warning ng storm surge, saan dapat lumugar o pumuwesto. Ngayon pa lang titinignan na 'yan at ginagawan ng aksyon  bago  pa huli ang lahat."

[Let's look at it (maps) now so that we know, because there's a storm surge warning, where residents should stay. Let's look at it before it's too late."]

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) says up to 99,888 families could be affected by Lawin in the Cordillera Adminsitrative Region, Ilocos Region, Cagayan Valley, and Central Luzon. Local governments in these areas have started pre-emptive evacuations.

The Department of Interior and Local Governments (DILG) stresses affected families should be  brought to  typhoon-resilient evacuation centers like newly-built  public schools which can withstand winds of up to 220kph.

DILG director Edgar Tabell notes one of the lessons learned during 'Yolanda' was that old evacuation centers were not yet built to withstand super typhoons.

Tabell recalls, "Ang leksyon natin  sa Yolanda, ine-evacuate natin sa traditional, old school  buildings and barangay halls. Tumama ang malakas na hangin. Nandun mga tao, namatay  mga tao sa loob. Ayaw natin mangyari ngayon 'yan. "

[The lesson from Yolanda, we evacuated in traditional, old school buildings and barangay halls. Strong winds hit. The people were there inside, and they died. We don't want that to happen now.]

The DSWD also says it  has 500,000 food packs ready for distribution.

Up to ₱1.4-blllion worth of stockpile of relief items and standby fund are also available.

Equipment for road clearing operations  are also ready for use in areas that could be affected by landslides.

Communication was also a problem when Yolanda struck. 

The NDRRMC now has two satellite phones per region, donated by aid agencies.

But Usec. Jalad says that  while updating the agency's database for phone numbers of local government units, he discovered that many still did not have satellite phones. 

He hopes local officials could set aside a portion of their Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) to procure sat phones.

As for the NDRRMC, Jalad stresses they need more sat phones and other response equipment. But for this year, there is no capital outlay budget for the agency where it could source funds for equipment and other facililities.

Jalad has already proposed to Congress to approve for next year's General Appropriations Act that 60 percent of its ₱500-530-million Quick Response Fund be considered as budget for capital outlay.