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Ondoy-like floods trap thousands
Some residents in Barangay Tumana, Marikina City evacuate their homes amid the continued rise of the water level in Marikina River due to Typhoon Ulysses on Nov. 12, 2020.
The STAR/Walter Bollozos, file

Ondoy-like floods trap thousands

Neil Jayson Servallos (The Philippine Star) - November 13, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — With thousands trapped on rooftops by fast rising flood similar to the one unleashed by Tropical Storm Ondoy, local leaders in Marikina and Rizal yesterday cried for more help from the national government as the onslaught of Typhoon Ulysses “overwhelmed” disaster response teams.

In Marikina, over 40,000 houses became submerged after Marikina River’s water level rose to as high as 22 meters by 11 a.m., which was higher than the 21.5-meter level recorded in September 2009 when Ondoy inundated Metro Manila. The river’s water level, however, dipped to 18.9 meters by early evening.

Mayor Marcelino Teodoro said the city’s 50 rubber boats were not enough to respond to calls for help from residents stuck on rooftops – many of whom were already suffering from hypothermia due to long exposure to rain and strong winds for hours.

“Air rescue is needed because our residents are on their roofs now,” Teodoro said in a radio interview. “We are lacking so much and our residents are terrified. Others have suffered hypothermia because of being soaked overnight.”

City government figures provided by the mayor said the flood touched the rooflines of some 30,000 houses in Barangay Nangka, 8,000 in Barangay Tumana and 5,000 to 6,000 in Barangay Malanday.

“The height of the flood exceeds the first floor of a house… So many months or years that we haven’t experienced this kind of flooding that’s why everyone was surprised,” he said in Filipino.

The city was able to preemptively evacuate about 5,000 residents even if it had not expected the river’s water to reach more than 18 meters. Dozens of trees have fallen due to the destructive winds brought by Ulysses (Vamco).

“We are preparing for the worst case scenario,” Teodoro said.

Aside from air rescue, the mayor said they needed more rescue boats and personnel.

As of late yesterday afternoon, more than half of those trapped on their roofs were still awaiting rescue, according to Teodoro.

Lapses

Teodoro admitted that there had been lapses on the part of the local government in its response and preparedness for Typhoon Ulysses. He said lack of resources contributed to lapses.

He said Ulysses was different compared to other cyclones that hit the city, even to Ondoy in 2009, as water had risen quickly in areas not previously considered flood-prone. “The circumstances escalated quickly,” he said in a television interview.

Teodoro said forcible evacuation began at 3 a.m. yesterday. The evacuation centers were already full by early morning.

“Admittedly, the local government had lapses. I admit our lapses in these circumstances and we would never be able to pride ourselves for this,” Teodoro said, assuring residents of continuous rescue operations.

He said even the city hall was inundated and rendered unusable.

“We transferred other operations of city hall in other areas,” Teodoro said in another television interview.

The mayor said the city government took advantage of the absence of rainfall later yesterday to “undertake vigorously the rescue operations” as several residents remained stranded on their roofs or inside the higher floors of their homes.

“There are still many, many more residents that are still trapped,” Teodoro said, adding that risks were doubled for communities where livewires had fallen into floodwaters.

The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) said nearly 20,000 individuals were evacuated from their homes in the metropolis. It said it deployed 692 personnel to assist in rescue operations around Metro Manila.

“Since last night, we accommodated all requests for assistance such as deployment of rubber boats and dump trucks to the affected areas. We will help with whatever assets we can generate,” MMDA chairman Danilo Lim, concurrent chair of the Metro Manila Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, said.

Catch basin

Bound by the Sierra Madre mountain range, the low-lying Marikina city is also considered Metro Manila’s catch basin.

The rivers that overflowed and resulted in exceptionally high flooding during Ondoy are the rivers that drain into the Marikina River Basin.  The overflowing of Marikina River also caused flood in Pasig City, prompting massive rescue operations.

Mayor Vico Sotto said severely affected villages were Santolan, Maybunga and Sta. Lucia.

Waist deep flood was also reported in Mandaluyong City including in areas around Maysilo Circle where city hall is located. Floods also inundated several areas in San Juan City, prompting the evacuation of residents from flooded communities.

Residents of Rodriguez (formerly Montalban), Rizal interviewed over radio stations recalled their terror as flood rapidly rose forcing many of them to climb on rooftops.

Carmelita Libawat, who was stranded with her family with 20 other people on the second floor of their neighbor’s house in Kasiglahan Village in Rodriguez, said in an interview aired over Teleradyo that barangay officials failed to inform residents of the unprecedented rise of floodwater.

In Cainta, the disaster management office cited difficulty in going to flooded places due to strong currents.

At least 58 persons were rescued after they were trapped inside their shanties when a concrete wall collapsed in Ermita, Manila early yesterday morning.

Manila Mayor chief of staff Cesar Chavez said personnel of the city’s disaster risk reduction management, Department of Public Service, and the Manila Police District conducted rescue operations after a condemned structure located at the corner of Sta. Monica and MH Del Pilar, Barangay 668 collapsed past 2 a.m. Strong rain and wind hampered rescue efforts.

He said an investigation would be conducted to determine the cause of the collapse

The rescued individuals were taken to the Archdiocesan Shrine of Our Lady of Guidance for temporary shelter.

No match vs rush of water

Meanwhile, a bulletin from the Philippine National Police (PNP) showed that flood control projects appeared no match to surging waters unleashed by Typhoon Ulysses.

According to the PNP bulletin, 50 areas across the five geographical districts of Metro Manila were heavily flooded.

A consolidated report by police stations in the area showed that San Lorenzo Street in Sta. Mesa and Lorenzo St. corner Dela Paz St. in Pandacan, both in Manila, were not passable to all types of vehicles due to high-level floods.

In Quezon City, motorists were asked not to traverse at least 23 areas. These included Calamba St. in Don Jose, Banawe/Retiro, Don Manuel St., Don Jose Retiro, Maria Clara/Araneta, Don Pepe/Tirad Pass, Araneta/Maria Clara and several other areas in barangays Del Monte, Sta. Cruz, Katipunan, Damayan, Doña Imelda, Damayang Lagi, Batasan, Sta. Lucia, North Fairview and Bagong Silangan.

In eastern Metro Manila cities, 14 areas were not passable as of noon in Mandaluyong, Pasig and San Juan.

In Manila, 13 areas were not passable to light vehicles, including España Boulevard, J. Tuazon, Old Sta. Mesa, Bambang to Tayuman, and several areas in Sta. Cruz, Sampaloc, Tondo and Sta. Mesa.

The PNP has also reported 81,047 families or 301,765 individuals evacuated nationwide.

Most of the evacuees were from Bicol where 54,264 families were moved to after places. In Metro Manila, 1,511 families were evacuated. —Marc Jayson Cayabyab, Rey Galupo

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