17 January 2014
Tropical depression Agaton (international name, Lingling) was the first named storm of 2014. It was relatively weak in terms of wind speed, packing speeds of 55 kph, but it carried heavy rainfall. The low-pressure area, originally located southeast of Guiuan in Eastern Samar, was upgraded into a tropical depression and was named Agaton on January 17. It moved slowly southwards from the January 18 to 20 where traversed through the cities of Davao City and General Santos City in Mindanao. In terms of damage, it caused 70 casualties across Regions X, XI, XII, CARAGA, and ARMM, and affected more than 1 million people. The total cost of damages in terms of infrastructure and agriculture was more than PhP500 million (NDRRMC, 2014).
Butuan City, with a population of 309,709, was one area affected by the flooding caused by the heavy rainfall brought by Agaton on January 18. At least 46 villages were flooded, affecting 3,438 families with at least 13,752 individuals (Manlupig, 2014). The Butuan City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (CDRRMO) raised alert level 2 in terms of monitoring the Agusan River after being warned by Project NOAH, through direct calls to the Mayor and the DRRM officer of Butuan City nine hours in advance of the deluge. The LGU coordinated with the Philippine National Police, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and local emergency response units to conduct pre-emptive evacuations. Despite 86 of the city’s 88 villages being flooded, only two casualties were reported during the event (Aurelio, 2014).
This situation from Butuan City during Typhoon Agaton reiterates the importance of appropriate action along with access to accurate, timely, and reliable hazard information. In addition to timely warnings, the LGU government and other responders also needed the cooperation of the citizens affected by the hazard in order to prevent a disaster. Thankfully, the impact of the flood hazards in Butuan was mitigated through the commendable efforts of the LGU and CDRRMO. The Agusan River Basin is one of the 18 major river basins targeted by NOAH to mitigate disasters since the implementation of flood mapping efforts in 2012. Numerous automated weather stations, rain gauges, and water level sensors had been deployed in the region to aid with this effort. Through this technology local communities were empowered with greater capacity to mitigate disasters. Butuan City was one example of a disaster averted.
Aurelio, J. M. (2014). ‘Agaton’ weakens, but floods remain. Philippine Daily Inquirer.
GMA News. (2014). Photo: Agaton causes widespread flooding in Butuan City. GMA News Online.
Manlupig, K. (2014). Agaton: Over 3,000 families displaced. Rappler.
NDRRMC. (2014). Sitrep No. 33 re: Effects of Tropical Depression “AGATON”.