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Officials discount typhoon casualty in Cagayan de Oro
By Elson T. Elizaga

Two officials in Cagayan de Oro say Woodfe Zamora, who died at 3 pm on Dec. 4, is a not a typhoon Pablo casualty for two reasons: He was gathering wood at Bigaan River when the typhoon was subsiding, and he didn’t try to save his life or someone else’s.

Councilor President Elipe has another explanation but I believe he was looking at a 2013 calendar, so I’ll skip this.

Let’s examine the first reason, which was expressed by Chief Supt. Gil Hitosis, police director for northern Mindanao. He is correct that the typhoon was subsiding, but so what? Before the typhoon had made a landfall, it was already subsiding.

All typhoons get weaker at a certain point, but meteorologists still define them as typhoons – unless they happen to exist someplace else, where they are called hurricanes or cyclones. Typhoon Pablo was a typhoon when it was still in the Pacific and until it got stuck between China and Luzon. If it killed a man in Manila that man would still be a typhoon casualty.

In fact, as early as Dec. 2, prior to the landfall, some people were already moving in uptown houses and hotels. Prawn House in Pueblo de Oro was already full that day. At 4 am on Dec. 4, a staff member of SM City Cagayan de Oro called my wife and told her that 25 people had evacuated to SM car park building. When the typhoon subsided, many of the 4,838 evacuees chose to stay in that shelter for fear that the rivers would overflow. The building was only completely deserted around 10 am of Dec. 5.

Goldstar Daily also quoted Hitosis as saying “He [Zamora] died due to his lack of foresight and lack of skill. The proximate cause is ‘self accident’ and not due to the typhoon.”

This allegation is quite unfair to Zamora, because he is dead and can no longer defend himself. Do we classify typhoon casualties according to their mental and physical abilities? Zamora might have been harvesting pieces of wood for the survival of his family. If he lacked the skill to swim in a raging current, that should not be held against him. Are we going to blame people with disabilities (PWD) if they get killed in a disaster?

Goldstar Daily reported that Engr. Armen Cuenca, assistant head of the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, said Zamora was not a typhoon casualty because he was not trying to save his life or the life of other people.

Nonsense. Many people died during typhoon Sendong in their sleep. They had no time to help themselves and others. The persons who had plenty of time were Constantino Jaraula and Vicente Emano. They had been warned by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. But they waited for months for disaster to happen. End


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