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New Tacloban must be built on higher ground

 

THE unprecedented horror that befell Tacloban City should prod officials to seriously consider rebuilding the city on higher and safer ground so that it withstand another typhoon as powerful as Yolanda, a renowned urban planner said.

Architect Felino “Jun” Palafox Jr. said that if he were to spearhead the rehabilitation of Tacloban, he would transform the city into the world’s center for climate change.

Tacloban is in the northeastern part of the island of Leyte with a land area of 201.7 square kilometers. The city, a port town, has 138 barangays. Like many places in the Philippines, much of Tacloban is low-lying. The spit of land on which the airport stands is well below five meters below sea level.



Because the city sits at the head of a bay, it absorbed the full force of the super typhoon.

Palafox said he would relocate the city to higher ground to spare it from storm surges whipped up by monster storms.

“Let’s locate the city to high ground, at least 10 meters above ground, also away from the fault line,” he told The Manila Times.

Many of the deaths in Yolanda were attributed to the tsunami-like surge that swamped entire communities.

Palafox said that structures in the new Tacloban should not only be disaster-resilient but also adapt to climate change.

“The new buildings in the city should be designed to address our problems in climate change,” he said.

He said the city’s seaport and airport, which were destroyed by Yolanda, should be improved to meet international standards.

The province should also have a strong, disaster-proof evacuation area.

He noted that most of the designated evacuation centers where people sought refuge were not spared from the wrath of the super typhoon.

With global attention centered on Tacloban, Palafox said this is the right time to make it as the world’s center for climate change.

The architect is willing to take part in the planning or remaking of a new Tacloban City.

United Nations Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos admitted that Tacloban needs to be rebuilt from the ground but it is impossible to say at this time as to how much will be needed for reconstruction and rebuilding efforts.

“It is far too soon to tell. This is a city devastated,” she said.

For now, what the local and national government can do is to identify the immediate needs for rehabilitation and reconstruction, so that details can be threshed out later on.

She said that it will take about six months before the city is cleared and prepped for rebuilding. And even then, the cost of the damage can be too extreme to be assessed in an instant.

Amos said that United Nations is working together with the government to estimate the cost of the city’s rehabilitation. The people, she said, would also need to do their share in rebuilding the city and communities.

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