Unused to storms, Iligan City reels from shock of floods
The raging floodwaters that Storm Sendong delivered came like a thief in the night to Iligan, a city unaccustomed to storms and floods.
Father loses child to Storm Sendong in Cagayan de Oro. In Cagayan de Oro, an unidentified father cradles the body of his child, who was among hundreds killed by Storm Sendong. @mindanaoan
Iligan City mayor Lawrence Cruz said at first, the people who were supposed to rush to help flood victims could not immediately respond because their homes were also flooded.
"It has affected so many of our constituents that even those who are expected to help are also victims," Cruz said on Balitanghali, and even described the calamity the "worst in Iligan City's history."
"Hindi ito ordinaryong sakuna. Mismo mga iilan sa social workers natin ay apektado. Napakalaking pinsala nito so it has taken some time to establish some procedures," Cruz admitted, but assured rescue and relief operations have since been on going.
"Slowly we are putting everything in place at dahan-dahan namang na-attend-an ang mga tao," he said, adding that some 10,000 food bags from the Department of Social Workers were on their way at the time.
Cruz said at least 24 villages or almost one-fourth of all villages in Iligan City were affected by the flooding, affecting some 2,000 families and leaving more than 70 people dead.
The mayor admitted being surprised by the level of the floodwaters, especially since 90 percent of Iligan City is categorized as hinterlands, meaning the entire province is literally teeming with forests.
Eric Carillo, a resident, witnessed how some residents had to deal with seeing their dead loved ones after the floods subsided.
"Iyong iba, talaga, naglalakad hawak-hawak nila ang anak nila, hawak-hawak nila ang ama nila... patay na. We are so blessed pa rin at kami ay kumpleto pa," Carillo told GMA News TV's Balitanghali on Saturday.
Some residents suspect the floodwaters came from the Mandulog and Agos rivers, which overflowed due to waters from neighboring Bukidnon.
Carillo said the floods have already subsided but several villagers - both alive and dead - remain trapped in their homes.
"May kapitbahay pa kaming hindi marescue kasi patay na pala pero di pa mabuksan ang bahay kasi busy pa ang rescuers sa ibang lugar," he said.
Merlyn Manos, a GMA News stringer in Lanao del Norte, said the floods swept through the villages without warning in the dead of the night.
"Bandang alas-onse, wala pa namang baha. Bigla na lang lumobo ang tubig. Ginising ko ang anak ko. Pagkagising ko lumutang na lahat ng gamit namin," Manos said.
She said they managed to sneak out of their home just in time through an opening reserved for their airconditioning unit and clambered up to the roof.
"Ilang minuto lang, lumobo ang tubig... Lahat ng bahay sa amin sa baba, wasak," she added.
Like Manos, Carillo's family was also forced to flee to the roof of their house.
"Mayroon talagang ulan kagabi... In a few minutes, umabot na hanggang bubungan ng bahay. Kami, umakyat na lang kami ng bubong namin kasi ang lakas ng current. Wala kaming naisalba, damit, tubig," he said.
Graciano Yumul of PAGASA said rainfall in Cagayan de Oro City - another badly hit area - reached 180.9mm on December 16, when rainfall in the city in the entire month of December averages only 113mm. It rained for ten hours. River and tributaries overflowed. — ELR/HS, GMA News