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PHILIPPINES: Mobile phone app could help disaster preparedness

MANILA, 19 October 2012 (IRIN) - The Philippine government has launched a mobile phone application which can provide real-time information on rainfall and flooding to the general public.

The Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards (NOAH), which aims to provide information about bad weather and thus mitigate disasters such as floods, typhoons and landslides, launched its website in July, and now a free mobile phone application has been added.

“When it comes to getting and accessing information, there is nothing more ubiquitous than the mobile phone,” Raymund Liboro, Department of Science and Technology project director for NOAH, told IRIN.

Using sensors, rain gauges, and weather monitoring systems installed by the government in various parts of the country, the application will provide information on rainfall probability over the next 1-4 hours in 200 sites, real-time information on water levels, and an overview of which areas are affected by rain and humidity.

“While this information is already available on the NOAH website, the mobile app accelerates the speed by which users can access this information,” Liboro said.

A 2011 World Bank study showed that 80 percent of Filipino households have a mobile phone, making the application convenient and accessible.

The NOAH mobile application will initially be available only for Android smartphones. However, its sharing options will allow users to share information across different social media. 

“Users can access Tweets sent out by PAGASA (Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services) [the Philippines weather bureau] as text messages to any mobile phone,” Liboro explained.

Future enhancements include incorporating a flood forecasting system. “This will really help us give advance warning to residents of flood-prone areas [and] if there is a need to evacuate,” said Vic Malano, acting deputy administrator of PAGASA.

According to the Asian Disaster Preparedness Center, the Philippines - with its typhoons, floods, droughts, volcanoes, earthquakes and landslides, and home to over 100 million people - is the most disaster prone country in the world.

In August, floods in Manila affected an estimated half a million people who had to be evacuated to temporary shelters.

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Theme (s): Natural Disasters,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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