On August 3, 1999, a typhoon named Olga wreaked havoc all over Southeast Asia and the Korean Peninsula. In the Philippines, the typhoon caused heavy rains on Luzon Island, killing 160 lives and displaced 80,000 people.
In the Korean peninsula, 160 lives were taken by typhoon Olga in both North and South Korea. According to reports, the typhoon brought one of the heaviest rains recorded in Korea that cost $657 million in damages.
Aside from the information gained regarding typhoon Olga, the devastating storm caused one of the most catastrophic landslides in the province of Rizal, particularly the Cherry Hills Subdivision.
Cherry Hills Subdivision was located in Antipolo City, the capital of Rizal province. It was home to hundreds of families that purchased low-cost concrete houses.
Antipolo City is located on elevated terrain. It is famous among tourists that want to see the bright lights of Metro Manila from a scenic view. The province also is known for its pilgrimage sites and resorts. Some would say that Antipolo City is the "Tagaytay" of Rizal province.
As for the Cherry Hills Subdivision, the tragic incident in 1999 killed 60 people and buried 378 houses. According to media reports at the time, local authorities had alerted the residents to vacate the area a few hours before the landslide happened after cracks emerged in roads and walls.
Unfortunately, it was too late for the victims. As residents gathered their belongings, the foundation of the houses at Cherry Hills did not hold up as the heavy rains were too much for the poorly built houses to sustain, which caused the houses to slide down the hill, crushing what's below of its path.
The rescue teams tried their best to help save the people that were buried in the landslide. However, due to the lack of adequate equipment to expedite their search, they were forced to utilize backhoes to remove concrete slabs and other debris to recover those buried.
It took several weeks for rescue teams to recover the victims of this unfortunate incident.
While the subdivision was being built way before the tragic incident, it was separated into two parts. It was situated along the perches of the Sierra Madre Mountains. The eastern summit is at an elevation of 255 meters, while the western side is at 233 meters. The subdivision separated from the mountainside is about 26 meters at its deepest.
According to initial investigations, the Cherry Hills Subdivision was built with substandard materials, and its foundations were filled with water from typhoon Olga's heavy rains, which caused the landslide that took most of the houses down.
Tirso Santillan, the president of Philippine-Japan Solidarity Corporation, is the developer and owner of the Cherry Hills Subdivision.
In the aftermath of this catastrophic disaster, residents and developers pointed fingers with each other. Based on the side of the residents, the developers used mediocre materials for the low-cost housing project.
On the other hand, the Developers insisted that the residents who renovated their houses caused the fissures that emerged amid the heavy rains brought by Typhoon Olga.
However, a crucial detail resurfaced, which favors the sentiments of the residents. Five years before the landslide, hairline fissures on the walls and pavements were already observed. The developers failed to conduct the protocol for that instance and went on to ignore the observations completely.
In September 2001, a local court ordered the arrest of three officials of the Philippine-Japan Solidarity Corporation, including company President Tirso Santillan, Hiroshi Ogawa (General Manager), and Eleazar Rodriguez (Assistant General Manager). All were charged for violating presidential decree 957 or the Subdivision and Condominium Buyers' Protective Decree, but they all immediately posted bail.
In the same year, the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board ordered the Philippine-Japan Solidarity Corporation to compensate the damages worth PHP89 million and reimburse the previous payments made by the residents of Cherry Hills Subdivisions. However, the company appealed the decision.
The company instead blamed the heavy rains as the real culprit behind the tragic incident in 1999. According to the developers, the huge volume of water that flowed into the Cherry Hills Subdivision caused enough pressure that caused the subdivision's collapse.
However, U.P.-based geologists debunked the developers' claims. They argue that while heavy rains may have triggered the disaster, they claim that certain geological characteristics made the Cherry Hills subdivision vulnerable to landslides, which meant that the heavy rains are not solely responsible for the catastrophic tragedy.
The geologists also conducted a post-mortem examination, which stated that the rock bed under the Cherry Hills Subdivision consisted of alternating porous and impervious rocks and a significant amount of clays that are probably distinguished as the swelling type.
Furthermore, the geologists concluded that the clays applied by the developers are prone to accidents because expandable clays, when drenched with water, are natural planes of slippage. Also, the natural slope of the ground, its sparse nature, and pre-existing cracks in its rock bed made the land area very vulnerable.
Also, if a geological survey was conducted before the Cherry Hills Subdivision was built, the tragic landslide could have been avoided.
Due to the low-cost nature of the houses built for the Cherry Hills Subdivision, the cost of a geological survey could have made the prices of the houses steeper.
At the time, the government did not require housing developers to conduct such surveys, which will change after the catastrophic event that took place.
A year later, the significance of the Cherry Hills Subdivision landslide has led the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources (DENR) to issue an administrative order requiring developers of housing projects and other infrastructure projects to administer an engineering, geological, and geohazard assessment (EGGA) of the area before obtaining an environmental clearance certificate.
READ: The Golden Promises of the Dumpsite Garbage Slide article of PH Murder Stories
ABOUT PH MURDER STORIES