Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Focus on Human Role in Rising Philippines Toll ; Poor Planning, Mining and Logging May Have Worsened Storm's Floods

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Focus on Human Role in Rising Philippines Toll ; Poor Planning, Mining and Logging May Have Worsened Storm's Floods

Article excerpt

Poor planning, mining and logging may have worsened flooding from Typhoon Bopha, which has claimed more than 450 lives, left hundreds more missing and displaced hundreds of thousands.

The death toll from the typhoon that tore through the southern Philippines this past week passed 450 on Friday, amid assertions that climate change, deforestation, poor planning and other factors had made the catastrophe worse.

The government's lead disaster agency said Friday afternoon that 456 people were known to have been killed by Typhoon Bopha, with 533 people still missing and 445 injured. Local officials put the death toll at more than 500. About 393,000 people were in evacuation centers or receiving some other form of government assistance.

Government officials said earlier in the week that altered storm patterns related to climate change had put communities unaccustomed to strong typhoons in Bopha's path. But they also said the destruction had been exacerbated by deforestation from illegal logging and small-scale mining, as well as poor planning and confusing hazard maps that were supposed to guide people in vulnerable areas away from danger.

"I requested samples of the geohazard maps, and even I couldn't read them," Senator Loren Legarda, an outspoken proponent of disaster preparedness programs, said by telephone Friday. "The maps need to be updated and clear, but they are difficult to understand."

Last December, more than 1,200 people in the Philippines were killed by Typhoon Washi, a powerful out-of-season storm that took an unusual southern track and surprised local officials, leaving thousands caught in flash floods. Government officials at the time vowed to crack down on risk factors -- like illegal settlements in flood-prone areas -- to avoid a repeat of the disaster.

A year later, Typhoon Bopha took a similar southern track and sent landslides and flash floods barreling through small, vulnerable communities where thousands of people remained at the height of the storm. …

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