Massive rescue underway in flooded Bulacan
() - September 30, 2011 - 9:16am

MANILA, Philippines - Rescue teams from various groups trooped to Bulacan province to rescue hundreds of residents, who were forced to stay on their houses' roofs, due to massive flooding since last night.

Undersecretary Benito Ramos, head of the National Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), said that rescue teams from the Armed Forces of the Philippine (AFP), Philippine National Police (PNP), Philippine Coast Guard, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority and two local government units from Metro Manila have dispatched teams to join rescue efforts for hundreds of residents trapped in Hagonoy and Calumpit towns.

Ramos said rescue teams from the military's side dispatched to Bulacan province include AFP's Disaster Rescue Task Force, Philippine Army, Philippine Navy and Philippine Marines.

He said that the PNP has also sent teams from its Public Safety Battalion and Maritime Group. The MMDA sent two teams with rubber boats have already arrived in the flooded province.

Meanwhile, he said the local governments of Pasay and Pasig cities have also sent rescue teams.

All teams carried with them rubber boats, which will be used to fetch residents in Calumpit and Hagonoy towns who have been trapped on their roofs since Thursday night.

He said four helicopters have also been dispatched to survey the flooded towns and look for trapped residents.

Philippine Red Cross (PRC) secretary-general Gwendolyn Pang said earlier that additional teams have been sent to the province to join the rescue efforts.

Reports said that more than 70 residents have been rescued by a military rescue team in Calumpit town. Reports added that more than 1,000 families still trapped on their houses' roofs have yet to be rescued.

Bulacan Gov. Wilhelmino Alvarado said that a total of 29 barangays in Calumpit and six more barangays in Hagonoy are submerged in roof-deep floodwater.

Radio reports said that hundreds of residents are either trapped on the second floor or the roofs of their houses.

Alvarado said that they have already ordered the forced evacuation of the residents in all areas affected by the massive flooding. However, several residents refused to be evacuated.

Ramos said that the NDRRMC has also received reports that the town of Paombong was also flooded. He added that several towns in Pampanga, including Apaklit, Lubao and Candaba, were also swamped by floodwater.

The provinces of Tarlac and Nueva Ecija, which has been placed under a state of calamity, are also reeling from floods spawned by heavy rains brought on by Typhoon "Pedring" (Nesat).

Several areas in Luzon, particularly provinces located in the north, are also isolated due to floods and landslides that rendered several roads and bridges impassable.

Plea for rescue

Eva Enductivo, one of the residents trapped in Barangay Frances in Calumpit town, pleaded to be rescued from their house over radio dzMM.

"Gusto na rin po naming ma-rescue," she said.

The woman said that her family and several neighbors are trapped on their house's second floor.

Authorities have yet to determine if there are already fatalities.

Local authorities and affected residents, who were able to evacuate before the floodwaters rose to roof-deep, are blaming the release of water from the dams of Ipo and Angat.

Enductivo said they were not informed that the dams will release more water.

Luzon dams release water

Engr. Alex Palada, division manager of the National Power Corporation’s flood forecasting and warning system, denied that the release of water from the dams are the is the main cause of the massive flooding in Bulacan.

Palada said that they are releasing 459 cubic meters of water per second from Angat Dam. He said that Angat Dam's water level as of 8 a.m. today was 213.26 meters, which is 3.26 meter higher than its normal water level of 210 meters above sea level.

He said that the main cause of flooding in Bulacan is the swelling of the Angat and Pampanga rivers. He added that Bulacan is a catch basin of floodwaters from Nueva Ecija, Pangasinan and Pampanga provinces, which were heavily flooded due to heavy rains brought on by Typhoon "Pedring."

Calumpit Mayor James de Jesus said that displaced residents have been forced to stay along McArthur Highway due to the lack of evacuation centers.

De Jesus said they are expecting the floods in the town and other areas in the province to rise further as two more storms are expected to bring heavy rains over Luzon during the weekend.

He said that Calumpit town is used to floods as it is a catch basin of water flowing from the upper provinces down to Manila Bay. However, he said that today’s flooding was the worst in 40 years.

Even before the massive flooding took place, Calumpit town has been placed under a state of calamity due to the damages it suffered from the onslaught of "Pedring." Another town in Bulacan -- Obando -- is under a state of calamity.

Based on monitoring of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration, three dams in Luzon, including Angat and Ipo dams, are already on spilling levels and a total of six dams are already releasing water.

Dam authorities said that the water releases are necessary and in preparation for the storms that are expected to hit land in northern Luzon.

'Quiel', 'Ramon'

PAGASA has raided public storm warning signal No. 2 over the provinces of Cagayan and Isabela as Typhoon "Quiel" approached the coastlines of northern Luzon.

Signal No. 1 is raised over Calayan and Babuyan group of islands, Apayao, Kalinga, Mt. Province, Ifugao, Nueva Vizcaya, Pangasinan, Benguet, La Union, Ilocos Sur, Ilocos Norte and Abra.

Majority of the provinces under storm alert have yet to recover from the devastation of Typhoon "Pedring" that dumped heavy rains and slammed strong winds into Luzon early this week, leaving more than 40 people dead and billions worth of crops and infrastructure damaged.

As of 10 a.m. today, Typhoon Quiel's center was estimated at 640 kilometers east of Tuguegarao City, packing maximum sustained winds of 140 kilometers per hour and gusts of up to 170 kph.

The storm was moving fast, westward, at a speed of 22 kph.

PAGASA said it expects the typhoon to make landfall by Saturday and may directly hit Cagayan. The typhoon may spare Metro Manila, the weather bureau added.

Meanwhile, weather forecasters said that while "Quiel" is approaching land, another storm that will be named "Ramon" will enter the Philippine area of responsibility.

Both weather disturbances are expected to enhance the southwest monsoon and will bring heavy rains over Luzon and the western part of Visayas.

Rains from the two storms are expected to swell water reserves in major dams in Luzon. -- Angelo L. Gutierrez

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