MANILA (UPDATE)– Unprecedented flooding seen in Cagayan Friday in the wake of Typhoon Ulysses was caused by rainfall that washed down from nearby provinces, its governor said Saturday, as the death count rose to 9.
As the nation woke up to desperate calls for help from the province, Cagayan Gov. Manuel Mamba said rain runoff from the provinces of Quirino, Nueva Vizcaya, Ifugao, Kalinga and Isabela had inundated the province, causing Cagayan river to spill into several towns.
This, even while there was no typhoon signal, as Ulysses had already left the Philippine area of responsibility Friday morning after causing the worst flooding in years in eastern Metro Manila and nearby provinces on Thursday.
"Wala ho kaming typhoon signal pero 'yung rainfall po dya'an sa Quirino, Vizcaya, ganun din po sa Ifugao, ganun din po sa Kalinga, at Isabela ay dito po lahat pumunta sa amin," said Mamba on Teleradyo early Saturday.
"Kaya late po ito, pero unprecedented po… First time po namin maexperience ‘tong ganitong klase na pagbaha. Ang nabaha po sa amin are towns along Cagayan River po," he said.
(We don't have a typhoon signal but rainfall in Quirino, Vizcaya, Ifugao, Kalinga, Isabela all went here. That's why this happened late, unprecedented... It's our first time to experience this kind of flooding. Towns along Cagayan River were flooded.)
Mamba said 24 out of the province's 28 towns and 1 city were flooded. Just hours earlier, a local disaster official said the province had turned into the "Pacific Ocean."
As of Saturday morning, the death toll in the province was at 9, Mamba said, including one rescue worker. The fatalities include 4 killed in landslides, 2 who drowned, and 3 who were electrocuted.
The provincial government has requested the Magat dam to limit the release in water to ease flooding, he said.
Mamba said they have sought help from the military to save those trapped on their rooftops as streets turned into rivers in most of the province.
"Overwhelmed po talaga ang ating mga evacuation centers, overwhelmed din po talaga ang ating mga rescuers because we are already rescuing last week pa ho ito no dahil may mga local flooding din po kami dito - localized flood prior to this. Kaya lang ito po ay malawakan na po ito," he said.
(Our evacuation centers are already overwhelmed. Our rescuers are already overwhelmed because they have been conducting rescues due to localized flooding since last week. But this is now widespread.)
CAGAYAN RIVER HEAVILY SILTED
Mamba also pointed to the siltation of the Cagayan River in the heavy flooding, as this has caused the riverbed to get shallower over the years.
"Kung makita n'yo po ang aming Cagayan River, this is not the Cagayan River noon; iba na po ang Cagayan River ngayon — silted na po, wala na pong madaanan ang tubig," he said.
(If you see the Cagayan River now, it was not what it was like before- it's now silted, water has nowhere to go.)
"That is why I hope the experiences, the suffering that we are going through now will be lessons already na i-stop na po itong pagsasaula sa kalikasan natin dito sa region (stop exploiting the environment in the region)," he added.
He said the river, which was about 200 to 300 meters wide, had expanded to about "two to three kilometers."
"Bumabaw nang bumabaw kaya pagdating ng tubig talagang nagkakaroon ng erosion both of the banks (Cagayan River). 'Yung dating 200-300 meters na river namin, ngayon dalawa, tatlong kilometro na po 'yung lawa," he said.
(The river grew shallower so when the water came, there was erosion from both banks. What used to be 200 to 300 meters is now two to 3 kilometers [wide].)
RESCUE EFFORTS CONTINUE
There are still countless people awaiting rescue even after a total of 47,000 have been saved Friday night and brought to higher ground.
"Hindi po namin mabilang (We can't keep count of those waiting for rescue)," he said.
He said some people trapped in their homes "don’t really want to get out already" and were just waiting for the flood to subside.
Even in this situation, he said, the province had prepared, even undertook preemptive evacuation.
"But unprecedented po kasi ito, masyadong mataas (the water level is too high," he said, adding residents thought it was just going to be the usual floods.
Videos that circulated on social media late Friday captured the sound of residents screaming from their rooftops, begging for help.
Mamba said rescue efforts were suspended in the evening because it was risky.
- with reports from Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News