6 February 2024 Landslide in Barangay Masara, Maco, Davao de Oro

On 6 February 2024, at 7:30 PM, a rain-induced landslide hit a small village in Zone 1, Barangay Masara, Maco, Davao de Oro. The Masara Landslide Incident buried numerous structures, including the barangay hall, three service buses transporting workers from a nearby mining site, a jeepney, and dozens of houses. As of 21 February 2024, a total of 93 deaths were confirmed, with four body parts retrieved, eight missing, and 32 rescued, all injured, with three in critical condition (Maco MDRRMC).

The landslide is believed to have been triggered by continuous rain brought about by the shear line since January 2024 and the recent trough of a low-pressure area. On the 1st of February 2024, a smaller landslide at the same site preceded the incident, prompting the barricading of the area. The rainfall time-series graph (Figure 1) indicates that, despite the rainfall not being heavy on the day the landslide occurred, the accumulated rain since January 28 was sufficient to contribute to the failure of the slopes.

However, the severe impacts of the devastation cannot solely be attributed to heavy rainfall. In disasters like this, other social, economic, and political factors may have also played a role in causing the loss of lives and properties, as cited in a study on reducing vulnerability and improved land management needed with increasing heavy rainfall in Mindanao Island by the World Weather Attribution group, which includes Mr. Richard Ybañez, UPRI chief science research specialist. Notably, there is a higher-than-average rate of poverty across eastern Mindanao, negatively impacting communities’ ability to cope with extreme weather events, given their limited and climate-sensitive livelihood channels, including farming and mining, which the majority of residents are engaged in.

Reducing vulnerability and improved land management are needed with increasing heavy rainfall in Mindanao Island, southern Philippines. Policies, laws, and funding for disaster risk management have largely stalled over the past decades, primarily focusing on ex-post strategies, notably response. Despite the presence of automated sensors for rainfall and stream levels in the region, these have not been recording data since at least 2022. Additionally, while forecasts and warnings are issued every 12 hours, warnings lack granularity on local risk and instructions on where and when to evacuate. Nevertheless, Early Action Protocols are in place for floods and typhoons, and PAGASA is currently developing a pilot project on impact-based forecasting to further improve anticipatory action.

While there is a need for further assessment of factors to address them urgently and prevent such a disaster from recurring, the most vital action is response. In line with this, researchers from the Hazards Assessment Team (HAT) at the UP NOAH Center promptly took action to determine the extent of the landslide and assist responders in identifying the locations of the affected facilities. Utilizing available online hazard maps from the NOAH website (https://noah.up.edu.ph/) and HazardHunterPH (https://hazardhunter.georisk.gov.ph/) (Figure 2), the incident location was identified as having a high susceptibility to rain-induced landslides. Additionally, HazardHunterPH reported recent landslides, escarpments, and the presence of tension cracks in the area. Through the use of OpenStreetMap and Mapbox, a total of 84 infrastructures and a population of 1,125 were estimated to be affected by the landslide. This includes approximately 39 houses with coordinates (Table 1).

Furthermore, the researchers conducted a historical assessment of the area to identify similar events that occurred in the past. It was discovered that two landslide incidents occurred on the same site on the 6th and 7th of September 2008, resulting in 24 reported deaths and 31 injuries. A historical comparison of Google Earth imagery at different timestamps shows evidence of a past landslide event (Figures 4 & 5).

The multiple occurrences of landslides in the past (Figure 3) indicate that efforts should have been made to relocate households and ensure the safety of construction in areas guided by the disaster risk reduction measures integrated into the Comprehensive Land Use Plan and Comprehensive Development Plan.

Necessary measures, rooted in DRR planning and implementation which prioritize public participation, must be promptly initiated to prevent the recurrence of disasters, as emphasized by Dr. Likha Minimo, geologist and director for Knowledge Sharing at the UPRI, in an interview with Rappler. It is crucial that, in executing the action plans, utmost consideration is given to protecting communities, the environment, and the rights and health of residents.


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