Sunday, January 4, 2009

new year, new challenge

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines — Floods caused by intermittent rains since Friday afternoon swamped low-lying villages in the key southern cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan on Saturday, officials said.

Among the barangays hardest hit in Cagayan de Oro were Carmen, Macasandig, Tibasak, as well as villages along Burgos Street, Consolacion, Macabalan, and Gusa.

In Iligan, the areas affected were barangays Mahayahay, Tambacan, and sitio Manuang, where four houses were reportedly washed away or damaged, while in Bayug Island in Hinaplanon were trapped due to high waters while th sea waters are on high tide.

Evacuees were temporarily housed in nearby elementary schools and were being assisted by the social welfare offices of the two cities.

Cagayan de Oro city administrator Criselda Joson told GMANews.TV that she could not yet give the number of victims affected as the city government prioritized on providing food, used clothing and medicine to those who have been brought to different evacuation centers.

"This is so sudden and we are still expecting the water to rise on Saturday afternoon. We are closely monitoring the residents especially on Isla de Oro and Isla Bacsan," Joson said.

The two islets are located across barangay Carmen and Burgos Street and Barangays Kauswagan and Consolacion, respectively.

The residents in the different barangays said they were all caught by surprise as water rose to high level at about 7 a.m. on Saturday.

Nilda Bacong said she got a call from her mother who resides in sitio Kala-kala in barangay Tibasak, one of the riverine barangays.

"My mother said that most of them are on top of the roof to seek protection as the water rose high. The last meal they had was on Friday night, and I am worried about their situation," Bacong said.

She disclosed that her relatives of 10 families were affected by the flood. As of this posting, she said the water had gone down, but her relatives could not yet leave the house and they were starving.

Cong Corrales, a reporter in a local daily, said when he woke up he found the toilet in their house already submerged, while three of his neighbors' houses were already under water.

"We have been used to the flood but today, we were all caught by surprise as the water really hit the streets. Residents here in barangay Consolacion recalled that the worst flood occurred on January 1956, another was on January 1986 and this one," Corrales told GMANews.TV.

It was the first time that Corrales experienced the worst flood that hit barangay Consolacion since he lived here in the mid 90s.

Mercelita Jandayan-Labial also got a call from her mother informing her that they were seeking protection on top of a warehouse inside the seed lot of Aberasturi Livestock in sitio Tambo in barangay Macasandig.

"My husband is helping rescue my relatives in Tambo. I was told the water has gone down but the current is still strong preventing them to wade the water," Labial said.

Fanny Pabito, the acting City Social Welfare Officer, said her team was feeding children at the West City Central School in barangay Carmen. Pabito also could not give an initial number of the affected residents.

In Barangay Gusa, seven houses have been totally washed out in Purok 8, which is a remote area near the hills.

The police were the first to respond to the rescue operations. Neighbors who were not affected also helped the families who are starving. Donations coming from private groups arrived first.

Amor Sanchez, a resident in Tibasak and the president of the employees union of the Cagayan Electric Power and Light Co., said power supply for areas affected had been cut off due to the ongoing rescue operations.

"I have organized neighbors here in Tibasak to provide initial help to those houses submerged along the riverbanks," said Sanchez, one of the lucky ones who house was not submerged in the flood.


Nova Chavez, a resident of Sitio Ilang-iliang in Hinaplanon barangay told GMANews.TV that she managed to grab only a bag of personal belongings and her baby after her house was submerged as the Mandulog River overflowed amid heavy rains Friday.

Iligan Mayor Lawrence Lluch Cruz has directed the Iligan City Disaster Coordinating Council, Philippine National Police and rescue teams to mobilize and respond in severely affected areas. The 104th and 403rd Brigades of the Philippine Army were also helping in relief operations.

Officials said the disaster council was still assessing how many families were affected. No casualties were reported as of posting time. - GMANews.TV

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