This article was first published on InterAksyon.com
MANILA, Philippines – Environment officials on Tuesday reiterated a warning to other residents living near a landslide area in Quezon City to evacuate immediately, saying the risk of more landslides is very real.
At the same time, field experts from the Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DENR) are closely tracking the situation in other places outside Metro Manila that are at risk of landslides owing to the sustained heavy rains that have fallen on Luzon the past three days.
“We are watching the entire Cordillera region, Cauayan in Isabela, and the western sections of Luzon—Pangasinan, Zambales, Bataan up to the Ilocos region,” said DENR Secretary Ramon Paje in an interview with InterAksyon.com
“Precipitation is being watched. Most of our watersheds are saturated,” added Paje.
As authorities continued the grim task of recovering bodies from the spot where five homes were buried by mud and soil and nine people were feared dead, four geologists from the DENR examined the soil in the area in Barangay Bayanihan in the so-called Litex area in Quezon City, and urged local officials to force people to leave.
The soil “is very loose,” and highly saturated from water unleashed by sustained rains the past week. The people living nearby “should leave immediately,” said Paje, who said the geologists on the ground conveyed that warning to local officials and the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Monitoring Council.
If the local officials cannot enforce the advice to exit, the Metro Manila Development Authority might have to come in for a forced evacuation, he said.
Normally, rain volume of 150 mm is enough to soften soil, but in the rains spawned by the southwest monsoon or habagat, twice that volume had fallen, Paje explained. In places where the soil is loamy, as in that landslide area in the Litex area in Barangay Commonwealth, the risk is higher.
The DENR chief said landslides are a special cause for concern because many times, the victims are oblivious to the impending danger as they are not in flooded areas and are often in elevated sites; but do not know that the soil behind them has been loosened and could bury them any time.
“That is why we strongly appeal to those in nearby areas to leave as well,” said Paje.
Geologists normally track four factors to assess the risk of landslides: the gradient, the slope, the load and quality of soil. In the Litex case, he said geologists deployed to the site noted that the load of the earth behind the still-standing homes has become much heavier, apparently absorbing water from the uphill terrain behind them.