Accidents waiting to happen PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 24 September 2018 12:03

By Remedios F. Marmoleño

The Itogon, Benguet landslide happened when I was still in Zamboanga City. It was heart rending to watch on TV the rescuers attempting to move earth with small tools to find people under the rubble. A whole mountain had moved and all the rescuers  had were small spades. A few days later I was in Cebu and I saw on TV another accident- the landslide in Naga, the work of the responders and the anguish of family members waiting for information about loved ones buried in the landslide. As this is being written the number of fatalities in the two accidents is already approaching a hundred.

The landslides in Itogon and in Naga were accidents but I can’t help but ask if these were what we might call preventable accidents.

I was in the area of Busay, Cebu  at the time the Naga accident happened and my niece was with me. People familiar with the topography of Busay will understand my niece’s reaction to the landslide when she said that “If they give me land in this area ( Busay)  to build a house on I will not accept it.”

With climate change we are told that certain weather phenomena will go to extremes at times. Rainfall will be meager at certain times and overwhelmingly heavy at certain times. When there is too much rain the ground becomes very wet and slippery and that is when a landslide can occur. When a building permit is given for the construction of houses on sloping land, as in hillsides, is there data already on how safe the land will be under specified conditions of rainfall?

Such information should be under the control of specific government bureaus or agencies who are responsible for regulating relevant activities like building houses on hillsides. Do we have such competence in these offices or bureaus?

The government can then decide on how to control permits and such to prevent what we might call “preventable accidents”. This is not an area in which I have sufficient knowledge but there must be people in this country who can be called on to share what competence they have in the field. And having the information make sure that these information are considered in planning.

Remember  the story of the young Thai soccer players who, with their coach, were trapped in a cave for 10 days until they were all rescued by a combination of experienced divers, many of whom were nationals of Australia and the US? The story had a happy ending because those who became involved in the rescue  had the skills called for by the incident.

Perhaps we can copy what was done in the Thai incident – have a pool of experts in determining which areas are safe for use as housing sites and should accidents take place, we have a pool of experts who can advise on what would be best to do.