Hammer & Anvil – The Hundred Year Flood

Jan 17, 2017

by

Hammer & Anvil GFX

Legend has it that a flood of gargantuan proportions would hit Cagayan de Oro every 100 years. That started in 1916, then more recently in 2009 when the city was hit in two consecutive weekends by non-stop rains that spawned floods the new generation haven’t seen the likes of.

 

Then came the deadly night of Sendong in December 16-17, 2011 which killed thousands and rendered many more homeless in Cagayan and Iligan, followed not quite a year later by Typhoon Pablo which fortunately did not result in any fatalities in the city.

 

Rescuers at work in flooded USTSP (formerly MUST) campus

Rescuers at work in flooded USTSP (formerly MUST) campus

Which makes the January 16, 2017 flood quite an anomaly since it wasn’t quite as protracted as any of our previous incidents but nevertheless caught many Kagay-anons by surprise with the speed by which the floods spread. Heck, it was “just a low-pressure area” (LPA) which did not even merit the benefit of a name, or additional warnings from PAGASA.

 

However, from the ‘suki’ places of the MUST-Limketkai area where one usually get an idea a bad one’s on the way, the floods quickly spread to the Carmen, Gusa and Kauswagan highway areas, that by late evening the CDRRMO and PAGASA already issued Yellow and subsequently  Red Alerts for pre-emptive, and later forced evacuation of places not usually associated with previous incidents such as Pigsan-an, Tumpagon, Tuburan, Taglimao, Lumbia, San Simon, Pagatpat in addition to traditionally flood prone barangays like Canito-an, Iponan and Bulua.

 

PNP Rescue Unit at work at USTSP (formerly MUST) campus

PNP Rescue Unit at work at USTSP (formerly MUST) campus

Given how so many people were left stranded in schools and malls due to the lack of a warning from the concerned agencies, did that necessarily mean we haven’t learned our lessons from Ondoy, Sendong and Pablo? I don’t believe so.

 

Freaks of nature like the one we had last Monday can’t be helped, it is the work of God, and no amount of preparation would save you from some damage, inconvenience and yes, even fatalities. But I take heart from the way our local government and civil society responded when it became apparent this was no ordinary LPA which didn’t even merit the benefit of a name.

 

Midnight session of the City Council

Midnight session of the City Council

I was heartened that the City Information Office was up all night relaying key information such as flooded areas, people needing rescue, coordinating efforts to keep the public updated on what was happening thru traditional and social media.

 

Our city council had to have a literal midnight session to declare a state of calamity and enable the chief executive to access calamity funds for rescue, rehabilitation and repair of infrastructure and other facilities damaged by the unexpected flood.

 

Mayor Oscar Moreno monitors the situation from the CDRRMD-CDO office with CIO Maricel Rivera.

Mayor Oscar Moreno monitors the situation from the CDRRMD-CDO office with CIO Maricel Rivera.

When the call for assistance went out, and in some cases even before it went out, the PNP, Philippine Army, Red Cross, and Philippine Coast Guard were already coordinating with the City Disaster and Risk Reduction Management Office to rescue stranded residents in schools and malls and ferrying much needed logistics where they were urgently needed.

 

And our friends in the malls themselves stayed overnight to attend to stranded shoppers. Although many areas were without electricity, the malls ran their generators to keep lights and other facilities open and deployed teams to attend to the needs of the stranded shoppers.

 

Centrio staff and First Aid Unit attending to stranded shoppers

Centrio staff and First Aid Unit attending to stranded shoppers

Not to forget our colleagues and friends in traditional and social media who worked overtime to help monitor the situation and update worried parents, spouses, teachers and other residents on the situation of their loved ones. Our blogger friends were up all night reposting urgently needed information and updates as were the radio clubs who were helping coordinate rescue efforts for stranded commuters, students and shoppers.

 

Even the barangay disaster and risk reduction management councils in the most affected barangays our friend former Iponan barangay chair Gaga Brilleta were up all night urging their constituents to undertake pre-emptive evacuation when the Yellow Alert was raised, and forced evacuation later when the Red Alert was issued.

 

Army rescue teams ready to go

Army rescue teams ready to go

So did all that mean we never learned from the previous visits of Ondoy, Sendong and Pablo? I don’t believe so. The response of the local and national agencies and civil society to the crisis was laudable, to say the least, and worthy of praise and recognition. I am proud of you all!

 

One final takeaway from Monday’s floods: whether in December, January or March, Kagay-anons better keep their eyeballs peeled and their ears open whenever day 16 during those months comes around.

 

A quote from an FB friend: Let’s stop ranting and just help. God bless us everyone!

 

 

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