The promise of “zero casualty” is an irony in many areas after typhoon “Yolanda” but it rings true for a small island in Cebu which was also hit by the monster storm.
All residents of Tulang Diyot Island in a Cebu town survived even if some 500 houses were destroyed by winds and waves from typhoon Yolanda, a UN report said.
The report attributed the absence of casualties to the evacuation of around 1,000 people from the island under San Francisco town Mayor Alfredo Arquillano’s orders.
“When it was clear how bad the typhoon would be, we decided to evacuate all 1,000 people,” the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction quoted the mayor as saying.
Arquillano, who UNISDR recognized as a champion of for its Making Cities Resilient Campaign, said his constituents also “understood the need to move to safety.”
“My goodness, it was a good decision; it’s fair to say it saved everyone’s life. There is not one house left standing on the island, everything was wiped out,” Arquillano said.
Tulang Diyot is part of Cebu province’s Camotes Islands, in between larger Cebu and Leyte islands. it is about 1.5 kilometers long and 500 meters across at its widest.
Yolanda battered Cebu and neighboring provinces November 8, taking thousands of lives and destroying property with powerful winds and huge waves.
“We have been working for years on early warnings, evacuations,” said Arquillano, under whose leadership San Francisco won a UN Disaster Risk Reduction Award in 2011.
“It just shows that preparedness pays,” the mayor said further, adding that “the awareness level of the community was so high that [the evacuation] went well.”
Arquillano said he is now urging residents of low-lying Tulang Diyot to permanently relocate to San Francisco’s main island. “They shouldn’t go back,” he said.
The mayor noted however that “it will be a challenge to try to relocate them somewhere safe and where they can rebuild their livelihoods as fishermen or farmers.”
Here's a video interview of Mayor Al aired over BBC: