Manila Times - December 13, 2004

Relief Workers See Tougher Work
in Devastated Aurora
By Dino Balabo and Ben Ramos

MALOLOS CITY - Rescue and rehabilitation teams are expecting worse difficulties over the next few days as disaster-stricken Aurora province remained without electricity and roads remained impassable.

Representing Gov. Bellaflor Angara Castillo, Alex Ocampo, provincial administrator, at a recent meeting of the Regional Development Council (RDC), asked leaders of other provinces in the region to extend more help.

"Initial reports estimated that damage to our province has reached P253 million," he said, noting that some towns have not sent reports owing to the continuing power outage and roadblocks.

Ocampo said Aurora has received its internal revenue allotment (IRA) of P250 million from the national government but even that is not enough.

"The cost of damages is even higher than their IRA," a participant in the RDC meeting quipped while Ocampo was doing his brief presentation on the actual situation in the province.

He said the town of Dingalan was the hardest hit in the province as landslide covered the town. It is in need of food and water for affected residents but the roads have not yet been cleared and electricity has yet to be restored in the province.

Ric Calderon, Central Luzon technical director for forestry of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), told the RDC that about 216,000 cubic meters of debris, or 21,600 dump trucks of rocks, logs and mud came down on Barangay Paltic in Dingalan.

"Based on our geologist's study, Dingalan lies on an active fault line where an ancient landslide occurred," Calderon said, adding that the ancient landslide covers an area of 1,000 meters by 1,800 meters, or 18 hectares, with a depth of 1.5 meters.

The landslide, he said, carried 2,610 trees down to Barangays Paltic and Davil-davilan, which are now part of the watershed area of 1,788 hectares that was created only in 1995.

Calderon said this history of landslides and the last one that hit the town makes Barangay Paltic in Dingalan no longer conducive for residential purposes and that residents will have to be relocated to a four-hectare site in Barangay Karagsakan.

He also said that the DENR regional office has ordered local environment officials to make an inventory the fallen logs that can be used by the victims of landslides and flash floods to rebuild their homes in designated relocation sites.

Meanwhile, Director Enrique Galang, Central Luzon regional police chief and Regional Disaster Coordinating Council chair, said that rescue operations in Aurora will likely be prolonged because of the difficulties.

"I was there twice and I have witnessed that many residents have lost their houses, loved ones, property and livelihood. They have nowhere to go. We must help them," Galang said.

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