LANDSLIDES IN BOLJOON
300 persons from 3 sitios fled their homes due to landslides caused by movement in fault line
Rannie Moreno and his eldest son Ricky went back to their wooden house that sat on topofahillatSitioCalfranco, Barangay Lower Becerril in Boljoon town, southern Cebu, to get some of their belongings on Monday, two days after they abandoned it due to the series of landslides. When heading back to his aunt’s house where his family was temporarily staying, Rannie heard the sound of the soil crashing down.
When he and his teenaged son looked over their shoulders, they were shocked to see that their house was already askew.
One of its stilts no longer touched the ground because the soil underneath it had cascaded down the hill.
The instability of the ground at Sitio Calfranco was the reason why Rannie, 44, his wife Gemma, 44, and their four children abandoned their home on Saturday and sought shelter in his aunt’s house.
But it was not just the Morenos who didn’t feel safe in their own house after the landslides had become more frequent.
Sixteen other families or more than 200 individuals also left their homes, which made Sitio Calfranco look like a ghost town.
Two other sitios — Sangi and Upper Cansiloy — in Barangay Lower Becerril have been affected by incessant landslides that started on Friday, affecting 19 families or about 100 individuals. One house was buried in Upper Cansiloy.
Most of the affected families stayed with either their relatives or friends whose houses were located in safer areas. No one was reported hurt.
Boljoon, a 5th class municipality (annual income: at least P15 million but not more than P25 million), is 105 km southeast of Cebu City. Lower Becerril has a total of nine sitios.
Data from the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) showed that there are three fault lines that cut across 17 areas in Cebu.
One is reported in central Cebu, covering the cities of Cebu, Naga, Danao, Mandaue, Talisay, Toledo and the towns of Balamban and Compostela.
The nine others are in the towns of Oslob, Ginatilan, Boljoon, Alegria, Alcoy, Argao, Dalaguete, Minglanilla, and Malabuyoc in southern Cebu.
Areas close to fault lines are prone to earthquakes and slight movements in the land, such as landslides and rockslides.
The movement of the fault line indeed triggered landslides in the three sitios in Barangay Lower Becerril in Boljoon.
The first landslide was reported in Sitio Sangi on Friday, prompting 11 families to evacuate from their homes and seek shelter at the town’s sports complex in Barangay Poblacion. They later moved in with their relatives on Sunday.
Eutemio Ternate, head of the Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office in Boljoon, explained that Sangi was sitting on top of a fault line which had been moving, triggering the landslides.
Unfortunately, the fault line cuts across the three sitios: Sangi, Upper Cansiloy and Calfranco. Since the fault line remained unstable, the landslides continued.
The movement of the fault line didn’t only result in landslides but was also changing the topography of the mountainous terrain of Barangay Lower Becerril.
When CEBU DAILY NEWS visited the area on Monday morning, four-wheel vehicles could not pass through the road that connected Barangays Lower Becerril and Upper Becerril because of the cracks caused by the movement of the fault line.
Lower Becerril Barangay Councilor Socorro Medelda said they were also surprised to see that the 15-km-long Becerril-Nug-as Road appeared to have been split into two.
The crack, caused by another movement in the fault line on Monday morning, was about half-a-meter wide and 20 meters long. A portion of the road has been elevated to six meters high.
To render the road passable even to motorcycles, the municipal government of Boljoon filled the crack with soil and covered the surface with limestones.
“The earth we’re standing on continues to move. Every time the ground moves, we panic a bit. This is why the 17 families of Sitio Calfranco decided to leave because we felt like anytime our houses will be buried by eroding soil. We fear for our safety,” stated Medelda.
“As you can see, the limestone we used to cover the makeshift road is soft and the ground below, it is also soft. And we cannot ascertain if heavier vehicles can actually pass it,” she added.
Boulders and uprooted trees had also blocked the flow of Lusopan River on Friday. The impounded water had reached about 40 feet deep or equivalent to a three-story building.
Ternate said that if the natural dam broke loose, the water could easily wash away everything on its path due to the sheer volume.
“We were told that they had successfully decreased the water level by three meters. That’s a relief but the clearing operations there will be 24/7 until the Lusapon River can finally flow back to the sea,” said Ruben Niere, Boljoon public information officer.
Heavy equipment from the Cebu provincial government slowly removed the debris that blocked the river’s flow. At that same time, the riverbank had been widened to release the pressure from the natural dam and prevent it from breaking.
Niere said they were relieved that residents of Barangay Lower Becerril located near Lusopan River voluntarily left their homes while the clearing operations were ongoing.
He said the residents could return to their homes once the authorities had declared that it was safe for them to do so.
Niere said they were still waiting for representatives from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to help them assess if residents should go back to their homes in Sitios Sangi, Calfranco and Upper Cansiloy after the landslides.
But Rannie and his family are not keen in returning to their house that sat on top of the hill at Sitio Calfranco.
“We don’t want to return there. We can build another house. Besides we were just caretakers of the land where it stood. An owner of a coconut farm just hired me as its caretaker so it’s not really a problem for us to start over again,” explained Rannie, who sold copras for a living.
For Rannie, the safety of his family is an utmost priority.
An aerial shot of a hill in Sitio Calfranco, Barangay Lower Becerril, shows portions of the hill where the landslide occurred.
Boljoon town workers use heavy equipment to clear a barangay road affected by a landslide in Barangay Lower Becerril.