Ham Radio Volunteers Activate Following Severe Weather in the Philippines
The Philippine Amateur Radio Association's (PARA) busy Ham Emergency Radio Operations (HERO) network has again activated, this time for Tropical Storm Jangmi (Seniang), which made landfall on Mindanao Island on December 29, then moved inland, causing massive floods and landslides. According to reports, at least 53 people have died, nearly three times the death toll resulting from Typhoon Hagupit in early December. The fatalities come in the wake of severe flooding in Malaysia, where some 2 dozen died and more than 145,000 sought refuge. BBC-Asia cited a Philippines Office of Civil Defense report that landslides in the central provinces of Samar and Leyte accounted for at least 29 of the deaths.
“With successive typhoons bringing rains, the soil got so saturated it caused landslides,” explained PARA Chief Operating Officer Thelma Pascua, DU1IVT. “Regional HERO was in place in Mindanao and Visayas. It’s now automatic for a lot of hams to coordinate with their local disaster risk reduction and management.”
Reports of HERO activity came from the affected areas, where more than 80,000 displaced residents were taking shelter in evacuation centers. Among them is Catbalogan, in Samar province, where 19 people died in a landslide that left homes and vehicles buried under rocks and mud.
Pascua said that HERO members from the Eastern Visayas area were embedded in the Office of Civil Defense and the Risk Reduction and Management Council.
“Eastern Mindanao hams also have good coordination with Local Government and the National Telecommunications Commission,” she added. “They were activated 2 days before the landfall.”
Outside of the affected areas, Pascua said, regular emergency message-handling training sessions are under way, with regular net control stations stepping aside to allow trainees to get prepared for future weather emergencies. She said PARA members have more awareness now of which bands to use for such weather emergencies, monitoring the 40 meter working frequency and participating on the 7 AM and 7 PM daily nets.
According to BBC-Asia, weather warnings were issued, but officials said that some people may have underestimated the situation. — Thanks to Jim Linton, VK3PC, Chairman IARU Region 3 Disaster Communications Committee; media accounts