MANILA, Philippines - Thousands of residents stayed on rooftops or abandoned their homes in Calumpit, Bulacan Friday due to massive floods not seen in the town in the past 40 years.
Calumpit Mayor James de Jesus said a total of 26,000 families in 22 submerged barangays have been affected by the floods.
"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.
Footage taken by ABS-CBN showed residents wading through knee-deep up to chest-deep floods or riding makeshift boats to flee the town. Others rode dump trucks, which transported them to shelters.
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.
"Calumpit is really flood prone. Meron talaga hindi nag-e-evacuate pero ngayon pati yung hindi nagpaparescue, gusto na magparescue," he said.
The mayor said he has ordered the local municipal hall and even private buildings to open up and accommodate residents seeking higher ground. He added that many agencies such as the Philippine Army, Philippine National Police, Philippine Airforce, Philippine Coast Guard and Philippine National Red Cross are sending rescue teams to help in the evacuation.
"I have been in touch with [Interior and Local Government Secretary] Jesse Robredo and a lot of agencies are coming to help. I am also calling on rescue teams to send rubber boats and amphibians. Make haste and take advantage of the daylight," he said.
De Jesus urged the public to donate relief goods for the evacuees and residents who chose to stay in their homes.
He also noted that floodwaters coming from Nueva Ecija and Pangasinan as well as water coming from 2 dams near Calumpit caused the floods to rise.
"Ang dahilan po, we are the catchbasin of the waters from Nueva Ecija and Pangasinan. What happened is the rainfall from Pedring nasabay sa pagpapakawala sa dam," he said.
In a separate interview, Robredo said there was already an agreement for the dam operators and local officials to discuss the release of water from the dams.
He said the magnitude of the floodwaters in Calumpit was not anticipated, which prompted the national government to help in the evacuation effort.
Asked if there was a better way to manage the release of water from the dams, he said: "I think it is a matter of timing. It's rainy season. I am sure the management of the dams would rather keep the water for purposes of power generation. But inasmuch as they'd rather go on the safe side and conserve water...You know, if they decided to do away with the water earlier, probably this could have been avoided. "
"There must be some discussion as to what is the best time to do it and probably a better forecast of rainfall that will allow them to manage this well."
Robredo said floods rose even higher in Hagonoy and Calumpit today compared to yesterday. Half of the main roads in Calumpit, Bulacan are impassable as of Friday.
He also said local government units should also consider using their calamity funds for disaster preparedness measures such as the purchase of rubber boats.