Pedring worse than Ondoy, says Pampanga gov

Posted at 09/30/2011 6:26 PM | Updated as of 10/01/2011 1:09 AM
An aerial shot from a Philippine Air Force helicopter show the vast area flooded in Calumpit, Bulacan as dusk sets in..  Photo by Rem Zamora for abs-cbnNEWS.com

Central Luzon governors say Pedring's impact the worst in years

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE) - Thousands of residents stayed on rooftops or abandoned their homes in low-lying towns in Bulacan and Pampanga Friday due to massive floods that drew comparison to the deluge brought by tropical storm "Ondoy" in 2009.

Footage taken by ABS-CBN showed residents climbing rooftops or wading through chest-deep floods to escape waters that inundated their homes, which came 3 days after the onslaught of typhoon "Pedring."

Pampanga Gov. Lilia Pineda said floodwaters from Nueva Ecija caused the Pampanga River to overflow and affect towns such as Candaba, San Luis, Lubao, Macabebe, Apalit, San Simon and parts of Arayat.

"Si Bagyong Pedring mas malakas pa ito kaysa Bagyong Ondoy. In the 80 years of history of Pampanga, ngayon lang nalubog ang bayan bayan na ito. Ibang klase talaga itong lakas ni Pedring," she told radio dzMM.

Pineda said the floods destroyed thousands of crops ready for harvesting early next month. Malacañang said the typhoon damaged more than 100,000 tons of rice in Central Luzon alone.

"Our biggest problem is the livelihood. Thousands of hectares for harvesting were destroyed. Malungkot ang Pasko nila dahil walang natira," she said.

In Bulacan province, more than 50,000 residents in Calumpit and Hagonoy towns were affected by the floods.

Benito Ramos, head of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), said various government agencies are focusing their search and rescue operations in the 2 towns.

Rescue teams include 2 Army brigades, elements of the PNP Special Action Force and Public Safety Batallion, the Philippine Coast Guard, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, and members of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority and Pasay-Pasig rescue units.

Ramos said rescuers are having a hard time reaching some of the flooded areas in Calumpit because of the narrow streets.

"Makitid ang kalye kaya hindi makapasok ibang boats. What we plan to do is for the indigenous boats to remove yung mga katig," he said.

He said some residents also refused to be rescued by chopper and only signaled that they wanted relief goods from the government.

Ramos also defended dam operators for releasing water from Angat and Ipo Dams.

Bulacan Gov. Willy Alvarado earlier blamed dam operators for the massive flooding in Calumpit and Hagonoy towns in Bulacan after they released water from the dams in anticipation of a new typhoon.

"The dams need to release water in preparation for typhoon Quiel. If not, it would be even more dangerous and could lead to the collapse of the dams, which will endanger millions of lives," Ramos said.

Palace to citizens: Heed evacuation call

President Aquino on Friday said that Filipino people's resilience is being tested again just 2 years after the onslaught of tropical storm Ondoy.

The President said relief and recovery from Pedring's effects will be a priority even as local communities brace for the impact of typhoon "Quiel", which is scheduled to hit Northern Luzon on Saturday.

He also urged residents in the affected towns to listen to officials' calls to evacuate and seek higher ground.

"We therefore ask our fellow citizens to heed our national and local authorities so that we can all achieve our common goal in disaster risk reduction. Let me emphasize: we need to move all those in danger. In particular, let us help each other persuade fisherfolks and residents of coastal, low-lying and mountainous areas to be on alert and be extra cautious" he said in a statement.

Highest flood in 40 years

Calumpit Mayor James de Jesus earlier said a total of 26,000 families in 22 submerged barangays have been affected by the floods. The mayor earlier declared a state of calamity in the town.

"We are experiencing a flood unprecedented in 40 years. The flood hit our dike...This has never happened before. Pati munisipyo binabaha," he told ABS-CBN News Channel.

De Jesus said evacuation efforts were launched on Thursday but many residents chose to stay because they were used to floods. He said many residents panicked and stayed on rooftops after floods rose at an alarming rate Thursday night.

The mayor said he has ordered the local municipal hall and even private buildings to open up and accommodate residents seeking higher ground. He also urged rescue reams to send rubber boats and amphibians and take advantage of the daylight to evacuate residents.

A dzMM report, meanwhile, said at least 1,000 families were still staying on rooftops in Calumpit town as of 5 p.m. It said some rescuers were unable to enter some submerged barangays due to lack of gasoline for the rescue boats.

Another dzMM report said 2 local hospitals have been hit by knee-deep floods. A 5-year-old boy was also reported killed by drowning.

DZMM reporter Dennis Datu said he and his news crew are unable to leave Barangay Corazon near Calumpit market. "May mga rubber boats o dump truck. Kung maluwag o walang sakay nakikisakay kami. We cannot ride rubber boats going back because it is for rescue. Pampasikip lang kami," he said.

He said that before noon Friday, store vendors were still selling their wares at the Calumpit market until the flood started to rise.

"Now, the water has reached the market. Whenever there's a truck, pinag-aagawan ng stranded na pasahero. Pag hindi nakasakay, nagagalit ang mga tao," he said.

Mayor James de Jesus said the flood might stay for another 3-4 days because of the release of water from the dams.

A separate report, meanwhile, said 26 barangays in Hagonoy, Bulacan remain submerged, affecting more than 30,000 families.