The Office of Civil Defense in Calabarzon (OCD 4A) has recommended that people living near trees and big structures be evacuated during storms, after typhoon “Glenda” caused many casualties in the region.

“Those living near large structures like billboards, walls, electric and communication posts, as well as trees, should also be warned and encouraged to evacuate,” OCD 4A director Vicente Tomazar said in a report to Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, who chairs the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

Currently, only people living in areas prone to floods, landslides, and storm surges are covered by plans of pre-emptive evacuation.

But it was observed that most of the 66 people killed and 96 injured as of Sunday in Cavite, Batangas, Laguna, Rizal, and Quezon were hit by uprooted trees, collapsing walls, and other falling debris, said Tomazar, who also chairs the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

In a full council meeting of the RDRRMC 4A on Friday, it was also recommended that trees along highways and major roads be trimmed, or the planting of trees in such areas be discouraged altogether.

Toppled trees and posts left roads impassable, especially for rescuers, Tomazar said.

Meanwhile, Tomazar recommended that the government also come up with an “emergency communications strategy” that could be used during disasters, as regional authorities were practically cut off from national and local agencies for hours, after Glenda struck.

“The storm crippled telecommunication facilities, disrupting emergency services. Due to this, information at the higher DRRMC was limited,” he said.

As of Sunday morning, the RDRRMC 4A recorded 667,497 affected persons, 106,539 destroyed houses, and P661.37 million worth of damage, but has yet to receive information from some areas in Quezon, Laguna, and Batangas because of communication problems.

Glenda’s effects on the region’s economy “have yet to be fully reckoned,” the council said.

Tomazar cited the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) as one of the national agencies inaccessible during Glenda’s onsluaught.

“The forecasting capability of DOST-PAGASA was very much appreciated, it was very accurate. But its accessibility on the website was a major issue during the passage of the typhoon” he said.

Tomazar admitted that current incident management plans and procedures “fell short” and that the local DRRMC system, though well coordinated, was “overwhelmed” by Glenda, which is now considered as one of the most destructive storms that hit Calabarzon.

“Improved operational plans could have better mitigated the typhoon’s tragic effects,” he said. (John Roson)

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