Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte Image Credit: AP

Manila: President Rodrigo Duterte ordered officials to step up the construction of shelters for victims of tropical depression “Usman” as the number of fatalities from the weather disturbance climbed to 126.

The President reiterated the need for dedicated structures for evacuation centres as the practice by local authorities is to use public school buildings to house evacuees every time there is a need to move people away from hazard areas.

ALSO READ

While this had been followed for years, such system caused concerns, for one, schooling of pupils are seriously disrupted every time there is a calamity such as floods, landslides and earthquakes.

Another is that these structures (school buildings) does not provide much in terms of protection from powerful weather disturbance.

“We need stronger structures for the shelters and evacuation centres. It has to be concrete, not just wood as such building material is the first to go when winds come,” Duterte said on Friday following his visit to areas affected by Usman in the Bicol Region.

The Philippines is visited by more than 20 cyclones and similar weather disturbance every year about a fifth of which are powerful enough to cause damage and loss of lives.

“Every typhoon, calamity that would need the evacuation of people, the public schools really suffer. And also it disturbs the system. It causes an aberration rather in the schooling of children. These evacuation centres can only be used for evacuation purposes and to keep the people safe and not to disturb the resumption of the governmental functions that we have, the ministrant schooling and everything so areas affected will not be disturbed,” he said.

Usman had caught Philippine authorities by surprise not just in the Bicol Region, but also in the Mindoro-Marinduque-Romblon-Palawan (MIMAROPA) provinces and Eastern Visayas. Initially considered as a tropical depression when it arrived in the Philippines on December 29, authorities had not been expecting that it would dump so much rains in the affected areas, that massive landslides and flooding took place.

According to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), Usman affected more than 624,000 people in the three regions, Undersecretary Ricardo Jalad of the Office of Civil Defence said.

“Usman claimed the lives of 125 people while 26 others remain missing and 60 injured I nthe regions of MIMAROPA, Bicol and Eastern Visayas,” he said.

It destroyed roads, bridges, houses and other similar structures.

According to the NDRRMC the Bicol region bore the brunt of Usman’s wrath with extensive damage reported in the provinces of Albay and Camarines Sur.