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Philippines trials disaster forecasting system

Simone Orendain in Manila, Wednesday October 3, 2012 - 11:20 EST

Authorities in the Philippines say Manila's recent floods provided a good testing ground for the country's new system for forecasting natural disasters.

Project NOAH was born out of last December's floods in the country's south that caused more than 1,200 deaths.

In response, President Benigno Aquino called on the Department of Science and Technology to come up with more accurate forecasting.

Project NOAH's Executive Director Mahar Lagmay has told Radio Australia's Connect Asia the first priority is developing high-resolution maps of the country, to identify the most vulnerable areas.

"The topography that is generated is topography that will enable us to see the fault-lines, the landslide scars and so on and so forth," he said.

"People can relate to the problem because they see their houses, they see their neighbours' houses. The bridge in their community, the river in their community in relation to the hazards - the flood hazards in particular."

Project NOAH, the 'Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards', had its first test in August when two weeks of non-stop rain caused serious flooding around Manila.

Information was sent out via the social networking site Twitter, radio and television.

Mr Lagmay says the project passed.

"Relatively it was successful because what we wanted to avoid was mass death," he said.

Prior to Project NOAH, hour by hour forecasting for every major Filipino city had never been available.

Now, the project's website shows visitors a weather map for the country - while other components of the project, including a storm surge predictor and landslide locator, are expected to be completed by 2014.

Those in charge say the next struggle is to increase public awareness for the island nation that's so prone to floods, typhoons, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

Geologist Carlos Primo David says the current attitude for many Filipinos can be summed up by the phrase "weather whether lang".

"If it rains, then it rains - that's essentially what the phrase means," he said.

"But we refuse to believe that we cannot predict rainfall."


© ABC 2012

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