CABANATUAN CITY—A top official of the Mines and Geo-sciences Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources has warned the people of Nueva Ecija against massive flash floods like the deadly 1991 deluge in Ormoc City that killed over 5,000 people.
This, in case of strong rains in the eastern portion of the province which could send debris cascading from the mountains.
“We will be counting dead bodies,” warned Noel Lacadin, chief of Geosciences division of the MGB regional office in Central Luzon.
Lacadin issued the warning during the two-day first geo-hazards summit sponsored by the MGB at The Podium special events center which ended here Saturday.
Lacadin said Palayan City and Cabanatuan have become susceptible to flash floods because of the Dituhin creek in Barangay Calabasa, Gabaldon where debris could cause the water systems to overflow and create a run-off.
“There will be dead people just like in Ormoc,” he said, citing the Nov. 5, 1991 incident when Typhoon “Uring” brought heavy rainfall, generating flash floods within a three-hour span.
The rainfall was not absorbed in Ormoc City because it was deforested and poorly cultivated, triggering a large runoff that overwhelmed the Anilao–Malbasag watershed and rushed downstream to the city.
In just three hours, Ormoc was devastated with thousands of homes damaged or destroyed.
A total 4,922 people were killed in the city alone, with 2,300 perishing along the riverbank. Outside of Ormoc City, 159 people were killed across Leyte and Negros Occidental.
“Just like Ormoc was in 1991, we could have a disaster of similar proportions in Palayan and Cabanatuan,” Lacadin said.
In October 2015, Gabaldon also suffered the worst flooding from Typhoon Lando. Two months later, it was again hit by floods brought by Typhoon Nona with floodwaters carrying mud and rocks.
The frequest flash floods in Gabaldon has been blamed on massive denudation of the forests and mountains in Sierra Madre caused by large-scale illegal logging in the 80s.
In Cabanatuan City, several areas experienced thigh-deep flooding after non-stop rains from Nona.
Experts said Cabanatuan has become flood-prone because it is along the path of the upstream Pampanga River.
Rains in the Sierra Madre are drained into a network of streams and rivers, flooding not only Gabaldon, Laur and Bongabon but also Cabanatuan.
Lacadin said the people of eastern Nueva Ecija should be on alert. “We have to act now. The urgency is there,” he added.