Valencia flashfloods displace at least 1,150 families; no confirmed casualties yet

BATANGAN, Valencia City (Bukinon News Dispatch / 27 December 201) – Flashfloods early Tuesday morning displaced an estimated 1,146 families, according to initial estimates from the City Social Welfare and Development Office, in what residents said had been the worst flooding  so far in 29 years.

 

Residents climbed to their roofs or the trees to wait for rescuers as the rivers’ rampaging waters invade houses in 10 out of 31 barangays here.  Water level went up to around four meters up and only about two meters have so far subsided, Capt. Alejandro Larosa Jr, executive officer of the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, said.

 

Survivors fled their homes and are now temporarily housed at city government-designated evacuation centers – at the City Gymnasium and the Barangay Batangan Covered Court.

 

Mayor Leandro Jose Catarata told Bukidnon News, all of those who were reported trapped Tuesday morning were rescued. He said no one has been confirmed drowned or worse have died in the floods. Though there were reports of three persons who drowned but there had been no names or kin who reported it.

 

The Philippine Army reported about 230 persons rescued via airlifting, mostly from Inawaan where a clan, the Obugans, was holding a reunion party. Larosa told Bukidnon News they were unable to continue rescue operations in Brgy. Catumbalon, where nine families were reported trapped as of 5p.m. He said rescue is difficult by night time and will resume Wednesday morning.

 

Gov. Alex Calingasan announced in his speech at the Provincial Reconciliation and Peace Forum that about 300 persons were trapped in flashfloods in the city of Valencia.

 

Catarata also clarified that it was actually the in-take irrigation dam at Brgy. San Isidro, which broke, not the diversion dam in Lumbayao as earlier reported. He said it aggravated the strong water current downstream but stressed that heavy rains caused the river overflow.

 

Jimmy Apostol, National Irrigation Administration Bukidnon manager, denied reports that their Lumbayao diversion dam gave way and stressed that it was the amount of rainfall that caused the overflow of the Pulangi River.

 

Two Philippine Air Force helicopters from Davao City bound to Cagayan de Oro were asked to land in Malaybalay City only to be ordered to do rescue operations. With the help of another PAF helicopter from Cagayan de Oro, they airlifted residents from Sitio Inawaan, this barangay and from neighboring villages, those who were earlier
reported trapped.

 

The choppers arrived by around 10a.m. but before them local rescuers were already helping residents flee from the waters. Water went up at around 5a.m. and was reported to have started subsiding by 1p.m.

 

Edward Baldemiro, rescue responder at the CDRRMC said residents were warned late Monday evening and early Tuesday morning but many of them ignored the warning. He said they were met with resistance with some residents telling them they have dealt with previous floods.

 

Daisy Castro, 53, among those rescued in Purok 2, Poblacion, Valencia City, said they got used to previous floods that only sent water up to knee or waste level. She said the flood Tuesday is comparable only to the flood along the Pulangi in 1982, 29 years ago.

 

When water level went up to roof level Tuesday morning, Castro and neighbors began to panic.

 

Analyn Hernandez, 34, got to see her house washed out. She said she was afraid but she got no choice this time.

 

“We are glad my family is safe,” she added.

 

Narlita Poculan, 28, mother of two said they were unable to grab anything.

 

“All I thought was for our safety. We left everything behind, anyway material things can be recovered,” she added. The families of Castro, Hernandez, and Poculan are now in the City Gymnasium, the biggest evacuation site.

 

“It’s our first time to evacuate but we have to do it,” Poculan said.

 

When asked if her family would have to return to the location of their house, she said they will have to see if the floods will not persist.

 

“With what we saw on television (on the Sendong victims in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan), I felt the danger of the situation,” she added. “Now we have to evacuate.”

 

The City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (CDRRMC) still could not release initial and official figures and won’t confirm reports there were those who died.

 

But the CDRRMC’s Larosa, who led rescue operations, said they faced residents who refused to leave their houses, residents who they have rescued in past flashfloods.

 

“They refused to leave their dangerous locations,” he added. Survivors in the evacuation sites said the experience of the flooding in Cagayan and Iligan cities seen on television made them more alert and decide to flee ahead of the flashfloods.

 

“We are devastated, we lost our homes,” Fe Manangkila, 51, of Sitio Inayawan said,”but we are luckier it happened at day time.”

 

Manangkila took minutes of helicopter ride from Inawaan to the evacuation site in Batangan Proper, where about 363 families were housed. In the Valencia City Gym, about 436 families sought refuge, the first time it is used as evacuation site for flood evacuees. She said most of Inawaan’s men were left in the village to guard their belongings.

“We were so afraid. It was terrifying. If it happened by night time, all of us could have been gone,” she added.  (Walter I. Balane/Bukidnon News)

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