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Comparing Typhoons ‘Yolanda’ and ‘Ruby’

/ 01:05 AM December 10, 2014

On Dec. 8, 1941. Japanese warplanes bombed Manila, Clark Air Base and Baguio, a day after bombing Pearl Harbor.

Exactly on the bombing’s anniversary last Monday, Manila and southern Philippines was again raided, this time by a typhoon named “Ruby.”

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By the time you read this, Ruby would have already left and a little sense of normalcy would have returned to many areas not heavily devastated by it. The death toll at this writing ranges from the official government figure of only two (a baby and an old man, both of whom were reported to have died of hypothermia) to the Red Cross tally of 21. (The official death toll is now 11, and the Red Cross tally has risen to 27.—Ed.) Either way, this is a far cry from the more than 6,000 dead left by Typhoon “Yolanda,” with thousands more still missing.

Also, thousands of Yolanda survivors are still living in tents and bunkhouses—which were damaged by Ruby—whereas many evacuees of Ruby have returned to their homes by Monday. Some store owners opened for business as soon as Ruby passed over their communities.

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What was the difference between Yolanda and Ruby? Aside from the fact that Ruby weakened considerably after it made its first landfall in Samar and blew through other islands in the Visayas, it was the people’s preparedness. After learning a lesson from Yolanda, the people fled to evacuation centers as Ruby approached with winds first reported to be stronger than those of Yolanda. National and local government officials forcibly evacuated those who did not want to leave their homes and prepared everything from rescue boats to food packs to medicines and doctors to evacuation centers. Classes in all levels were suspended and government and private offices were closed.

With Yolanda, the people who had experienced many other storms before were not worried, even lackadaisical. They had withstood many other past storms, they would withstand this one, too. Many of them didn’t.

But after Yolanda killed thousands of people and devastated homes and infrastructure, the people learned their lesson: Don’t underestimate the fury of nature. They hunkered down early, long before Ruby struck, expecting the worst. In fact, it was an anticlimax when Ruby weakened considerably.

Another difference is that as soon as Ruby passed, the people roused themselves and went back to the business of living. One year after Yolanda, however, many of its survivors are still living in tents and bunkhouses and receiving food packs from relief agencies.

In Metro Manila, which was supposed to be hit by Ruby, people began asking in the late evening of Monday when it was supposed to strike: Where is the storm?

There were no strong winds, and the rains were very light. The storm was right there but it skirted the metropolis.

Paradoxically, the threat of Ruby brought a modicum of comfort to Mega Manila. Traffic was very light as motorists stayed home, fearing the floods that usually inundate the cities during heavy rains. It was a joy to drive through the streets of the cities. The huge billboards that pollute the skyline have been taken down; only the bare steel frames were left standing like skeletons.

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On the negative side, the government-operated elevated rail lines stopped operations very early, just when people needed transportation to get home. The government’s Philippine National Railways also stopped operations to Laguna. They were all afraid of Ruby. But in times of emergency, it is supposed to be the government that provides services to the people, come hell or high water.

At this writing there are still no reports on the damage to homes, infrastructure and agriculture, but it’s expected to be lighter than that wrought by Yolanda. That is good and bad news. When the next typhoon arrives, the people may be overconfident again, thinking that it may be another Ruby, so that when another Yolanda strikes, the death toll and the damage to property would again be as devastating.

In the wake of the typhoon, some people were asking: Where was Vice President Jojo Binay? Interior Secretary Mar Roxas was seen everywhere directing preparations and aid before and after the storm, even falling off a motorcycle. But VP Binay was nowhere in sight. Was he afraid of Ruby? Why not? If he is afraid of Sen. Antonio Trlllanes, ex-Makati vice mayor Ernesto Mercado, and the Senate blue ribbon committee, why not Typhoon Ruby, too?

* * *

Mothers usually sing to their babies to comfort them and lull them to sleep. Tomorrow evening, however, it will be the daughter who will sing songs for her mother.

Singer Margaux Salcedo will sing for her mother, Carmelita, and her fans at the Tap Room of the Manila Hotel starting at 9 p.m. The mother marks her birth anniversary on Dec. 12, six days after Margaux’s own on Dec. 6.

Margaux will be accompanied by a four-man combo including Romy Posadas at the piano, Colby dela Calsada on bass, and Jun Viray on drums.

Click here for more weather related news.

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TAGS: Binay, Mar Roxas, Pearl Harbor, Ruby, Typhoon, World War II, Yolanda
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