MANILA, Philippines (1st UPDATE) - It's a race against time to save trapped residents in flooded barangays in Calumpit and other areas in Bulacan as a new typhoon threatens to hit Northern Luzon this weekend.
Philippine Coast Guard chief Ramon Liwag has ordered all available rubber boats to be brought to Calumpit, Bulacan after villagers stayed on rooftops since Thursday to escape rising floodwaters.
Footage taken by ABS-CBN showed 90% of the town hit by floods, which reached up to the second floors of houses. Many residents were also seen wading through chest-deep floods to reach higher ground.
Barangay captain Alvin Danganan said it was the worst flooding to hit the town.
"Kahapon pa po hanggang leeg ang tubig. Sa ibang lugar, lampas tao na po. Nasa bubong na po ang mga tao," he told radio dzMM.
"Ngayon lang ganito kagrabe ang baha. Nung nakaraan hindi ganito, kahit nung Ondoy. Hanggang baywang lang. Ngayon, pati highway lubog na lubog na," he added.
Officials said up to 25,000 residents have been affected by the floods, with at least 2,000 staying in evacuation centers.
A state of calamity has been declared in the town. Floods have also reached Hagonoy, Obando, Pulilan and Paombong also in Bulacan.
Rescuers said they were unable to evacuate residents in Calumpit last night due to strong current of the floods.
Dams caused floods?
In an interview, Apiong Pangan, 74, said no rescue team has reached their area since typhoon "Pedring" hit Luzon.
He said residents living in bungalow-type houses have been staying on rooftops since yesterday because of the floods.
"Nandito kami sa taas ng bubong ng bayan. Kaming mga mag-anak, apo at kapit-bahay. We are 200 meters away from Calumpit Bridge. We have 4 kids with us," he told ABS-CBN's "Umagang Kay Ganda."
He added that rescuers cannot use rubber boats to reach their area because of the current.
Another resident, Eva Inductivo, said at least 20 people were trapped inside her house in Barangay Frances because of the flood.
"Hindi po na-disseminate yung information na marami pa pong magpapakawalang dam. Hindi namin alam na ganun pala. Bigla pong lumobo na lang yung tubig nung umaga," she told radio dzMM
Yet another resident, Aning Cruz, appealed for food and water for 15 people inside his house.
Bulacan Gov. Willy Alvarado, meanwhile, blamed the release of water from 3 dams for the floods in Calumpit. The dams are Ipo Dam, Angat Dam, and Bustos Dam.
"It's unprecedented that a flood this high has reached low-lying areas. We need to study in the release of water in these dams. They should have been releasing water even before the typhoon," he told ANC.
Alex Palada, National Power Corporation flood forecasting and warning system division manager, however, denied that it is just the release of water from the dams that caused the massive floods.
"It is not just the water from the dam causing the floods. Calumpit is a confluence of the Angat Dam and Pampanga River. The Pampanga River gets water from Nueva Ecija and Pampanga," he said.
Some residents also admitted that they did not leave their homes despite warnings of forced evacuation by local officials for fear of losing their livelihood.
'Quiel', 'Ramon' to hit Luzon
The national government, meanwhile, warned that at least 2 weather disturbances could dump more rains in Luzon in the coming days.
Science and Technology Undersecretary Graciano Yumul said typhoon Quiel is forecast to hit Cagayan this Saturday. He said Quiel, which has a diameter of about 400 kilometers, is expected to increase in size before it hits Northern Luzon.
"Our problem is the floodwaters have yet to be flushed out to sea and rains dumped on nearby mountains are still on their way down to the plains," he said.
He also noted that after Quiel, tropical depression "Ramon” will also enter the Philippine area of responsibility during the weekend and bring more rain to Luzon by Monday.
At least 43 people were killed in the aftermath of typhoon "Pedring" this week. With reports from radio dzMM and ANC