RE: Sudden deluge of raging waters rising 8ft high is not caused by Ondoy alone

By Beth Alacar, reader

Posted at Oct 01 2009 02:41 PM | Updated as of Oct 01 2009 10:41 PM

I just read your article regarding the view of Architect Felino Palafox Jr. that the bane of the worst flooding in Metro Manila in 40 years was government's ineptness and corruption as well as private developers greed for easy gain. And I perfectly agree with him.
 
I bought a lot in Vista Real Classica, from Sta Lucia. The lot was located near the Marikina river. The lot was my first investment as a responsible adult sweating off to earn a decent living and provide a better future for myself. I had the lot for many years as I bought it in my early twenties. It was only last year, after I have married and had a child,that my husband and I decided to build on the lot. I’ve always worried that the lot was close to the river and had thought of selling it off many times. 
 
However, neighbors who have built their homes their for quite sometime has reassured me that there was no incidence of flooding. However, the water do rise and the riprap was never finished by Sta Lucia but the homeowners association has already filed a case with Sta Lucia regarding this matter and they were hoping it will be resolved soon.
 
When Ondoy struck last Saturday, the house construction was 90% finished. There was a construction meeting at the ground floor of the house when a deluge of water came raging and covered the entire 1st floor of the house up to the ceiling. The waters covered more than 3 blocks making the village look like a sea. Our project manager and workers were trapped on the second floor. 
 
Once the water subsided Sunday morning the entire 1st floor virtually vanished. Ceilings and lights are gone, windows, doors, even fixed glass walls were all gone. Perimeter walls knocked down and there was dead fish at the front of the house. Mud so thick and debris of all kinds was everywhere. The property loss was incredible.
 
For my neighbors, the loss was probably more as their cars will be on their sides or on top of each other by Sunday morning. Gates hinges were pulled out of concrete where they are connected. You will still find the village a disaster area today with belongings laid out of the house and covered by mud. Jean Garcia, the actress, was one of the neighbors who called for help via a TV show.
 
I feel that several things can be held liable for such tragedy:
 
1) The government for allowing Sta Lucia to developed a property in a reclaimed river area. When we started to build last year, our engineers discovered that the lot was reclaimed river. Sta Lucia covered a portion of the river with tons of soil and sold these reclaimed areas as lots. Thus when you compare our side with that of the opposite bank (Marikina side) the sta lucia property appears higher. However, the reclaimed land made for an unstable foundation. 
 
I guess this was not the concern of Sta Lucia. They figured it would be the problem of the lot ownew when they eventually discovered this. But that time, the money of course is already with Sta Lucia . . . And anyone who will take them to court will be nuts as nothing really happens in our courts, it will be burried in stacks of papers, and it will just cost the lot owner more money in the end.
 
When doing the foundation for our house, the soil was so loose it was hard to keep digging deep as the upper portion would eventually colapse. Since we have already spend a lot, we decide to go with the recco of the engineer to employ tie-beams to make the foundation safe for the soft soil it was sitting on, effectively increasing the cost of the foundation 4-5X more as the entire foundation has to be tie-beamed together. 
 
But good for us that we pushed to dig deeper and paying more jus to hit the natural ground and add the tie-beam just to make sure the foundation is safe. Afterall this will be our dream house, we don’t want to second guess our faith. In the aftermath of Ondoy, you will see how soft the soil was as portions of the concrete foundation came out when the river water just simply swept off layers and layers of soft soil it belonged to her. Our neighbors had the same experience when they built their homes.
 
2) The rise in water was so sudden that its hard to believe it was just because Ondoy brought so much rain. The flash flood was more due to some incompetent person overseeing the Dams. I feel the Dam/s must have been simply opened without thought of consequence what a huge volume of water can do when suddenly released. 
 
It’s like somebody poured an ocean of water into a canal. A deluge of water just suddenly swept thru the village giving no warning to all homeowners. How can one explain the sudden rise of water at 8 ft with such tremendous current. Had it been simply rain, the water would have rise slowly and overflowed, not a huge tidal wave coming in and sweeping the place clean.
 
Id like to believe there is a science to operating a dam. That there are guidelines to follow as to how it should be routinely monitored so us to ensure that it does not reach full capacity. There should be some red signals that will prompt someone that its time to open an inch of it or so inorder to prevent overflowing. 
 
In the US, they have laboratory experiments just to test how best to open a dam to ensure it does not flood the valleys below or erode the river sides. I think somebody simply panic and just opened that dam or could it that they opened several dams simultaneously without thought or wihout proper protocol resulting to flash flood and destroying properties and lives.
 
3) Sta Lucia is as much liable, at least in our village, not only for selling reclaimed river beds without informing the buyer . . . But by simply failing to make sure that they ensure the safety of their homeowners by building a proper riprap.
 
In my case, I have to write 2 letters to request them to start the riprap in my property of which until now they have not finished. They have started a portion of it, had to stop I was told as they need to finish first the riprap of some general's house. 
 
The last word from them was the riprap will be started this week (wk of Sept 28) --- too late for Ondoy --- and as always, promises never materialize as the week will end and no work has transpired to-date. An Engineer Dacanay oversees this project.
 
My neighbor had to do the same years back when they were building their house.
 
I feel sad and defeated with just the thought of having to rebuild again. It would have been easy if I earn my money in the same way the congressmen who live in the village does --- by illegal logging or any form of corruption. 
 
But when you worked so hard to save up money and finally build a home, to see it flushed out in a day is just really hard to accept. 
 
I hope your news team can investigate this sudden flash flood in our village or at the very least report on unscrupulous behavior of developers in the country which cause money, dreams, and lives. I wonder if there are other villages built this way around metro manila.
 
Beth Alacar

BethSheba.Alacar[at]vn.nestle.com