MGB: Valencia landslide, a disaster ‘waiting to happen’

MALAYBALAY CITY – The July 4 landslide in Sitio Hangaron, Lumbayao, Valencia City, was a disaster waiting to happen, said Engr. Paul Salise, chief of mining environment and safety division, of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the department.

Salise told Bukidnon News via telephone Tuesday afternoon the local government have been warned about the susceptibility of the areas to landslide.

Although he clarified that the warning was in “general terms.” According to the report of the MGB staff who responded to the field on July 4, the landslide was caused by the heavy rains in the area as of 5p.m. Right then, land began to fall slowly, he added. But he noted that the major land fall, which claimed the lives of at least three as of 5p.m. Tuesday with at least 15 to 20 others feared of being covered, happened at 8a.m.

He said based on the MGB team’s assessment, landslide was “always possible” in the area every time there is heavy rains. Salise, a geologist, said the underlying rocks in the area was “not very competent” as it is made of “highly” and “deeply” weathered or
old rocks.

He said they have always reminded local governments to keep areas susceptible to landslide away from residents.

Valencia City, he added is among eight towns and cities in Mindanao, which is targeted for a detailed geo hazard study because of the occurrence of past landslides and other disasters.

The MGB considered Barangay Lumbayao as a “moderate, high” in its latest landslide geo-hazard assessment, but it was silent on Purok 11, site of the July 4 landslide where three bodies have been recovered so far and about 15 to 20 others are believed to be covered.

Based on the report released in 2009, the latest so far, a copy of which was obtained by Bukidnon News Tuesday, the MGB report did not have an assessment on Sitio Halaron, Purok 11.

The report said Lumbayao, one of Valencia City’s 31 barangays, have five villages considered as moderate to high in susceptibility to landslide, namely: Purok 15, Purok 16, Sitio Liloan, Purok 12, and Purok 17.

Salise said it is possible that the village was not included in the assessment because there are no residents in the area.

“Flow traffic in the area was not considered (in the assessment) as their consideration was proximity to communities,” he added.

Salise stressed that they have always stressed that residents and commuters should be kept away from landslide susceptible areas.

The 2009 geo hazard assessment report noted that in Purok 15 and 17, 40 houses were on ridges; in Liloan, 10 houses on ridges; in Purok 13, 30 houses on foot slopes; Purok 12, 60 houses on foot slopes; tension cracks, recent and old landslides; and patchy soil creep were observed.

The assessment team, composed of four MGB geologists, recommended among others that an early warning device or system be used in the area.

But, again, there was no recommendation on Purok 11, because the MGB report was silent on it.

Arsenio Alagenio, executive officer of the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, told Bukidnon News that the report was important to local government units because it was a tool for their planning.

He said although he still needs to know why the report was silent on it, he surmised that it was because there was no community in the area.

“But it was an important road portion for the residents in the area,” he added. The death toll in the landslide site remained at three as of 5p.m. Tuesday as the second day of retrieval operations ended with no find. At least 15 to 20 others were feared covered.

Norma Gironella, Department of Public Works and Highways 10 regional director, told reporters in the site Tuesday that the road widening, which the agency contracted with a firm as part of the Davao del Norte-Bukidnon highway could have been a factor in the landslide.

But she stressed that it was “force majeure” or force of nature that actually caused the landslide, as quoted by Sandra Flores, DPWH Bukidnon 1st district public information officer.

About 55 percent of the soil in the landslide that blocked the road have been removed so far, Flores added.

The three victims were identified as Sheryl Arnosa-Sadsad of Musuan, Maramag; Marites Lagunay; and her mother, Segundina Lagunay, of Medina, Misamis Oriental.

The landslide, which started around 6pm Sunday in sitio Hangaron, Lumbayao forced commuters from Valencia and San Fernando town, also in Bukidnon, to transfer to another vehicle upon reaching the area.

A survivor, Conchita Isidro, said she’s not sure of what happened to her fellow passengers who alighted from their vehicle and walked behind her along a 20-meter long passage at the landslide area.

When she heard the sound of earth rushing from one side of the road, she just grabbed her 3-year-old grandson, John Dave, and left her bag containing her clothes and money for her child who is studying in Davao City, she said.

Celso Mahinay, a member of the radio group Karancho said some motorists told him that some of the passengers were brought to a hospital in San Fernando.

Lumbayao Barangay Chair Bobby Enabong said about 200 meters of the highway was affected by the landslide. He admitted that the site is really landslide-prone and poses a risk to commuters although it is not populated.

Rey Peter Gille, DPWH 1st district engineer, has promised that the roads would be cleared soon, as heavy equipment were already dispatched on the way. (Walter I. Balane)


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