MANILA— There were enough warnings, but the volume of water that descended onto Cagayan— wrought by multiple factors— was just too much to handle, leading to the worst flooding seen in the valley province in over 4 decades, its governor said Saturday.
Even as residents begged for rescue while trapped on rooftops amid surrounding floods, Cagayan Gov. Manuel Mamba said the provincial government had prepared for expected flooding, issuing warnings to residents and enforcing preemptive evacuations.
But, he explained, the amount of water that washed down towns was just “enormous” even while there was never any typhoon signal hoisted over Cagayan while Typhoon Ulysses was crossing the Luzon landmass.
“Nakapaghanda po kami (We were able to prepare), no question about that. We anticipated this, we had preemptive evacuation, we had forced evacuation. We anticipated this but we did not anticipate how enormous ‘yung tubig na darating (the water that was coming),” said Mamba at the Laging Handa briefing on state-run television.
He cited how residents also experienced flooding last year and expected just the same magnitude to happen again, but the water level was worse. He said the last time such level of flooding was seen in the city was recorded in 1975.
“Ngayon lang naman naulit ito (It happened again just now),” Mamba said.
“That’s why many were surprised, but really we prepared for this but this is worse than we prepared for,” he said.
The governor cited multiple factors that led to the catastrophic flooding, which as of Saturday morning has inundated 24 out of 28 towns and 1 city in the province, and has left 9 dead.
He said water from nearby provinces- Quirino, Nueva Vizcaya, Ifugao, Kalinga and Isabela- had rushed down Cagayan in Ulysses’ wake, while soil in the province was already “saturated” because of continuous rains.
The Cagayan River was also already heavily silted. He said there had never been any effort to begin dredging until recently.
"Kung makita nyo 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 in an earlier interview on TeleRadyo.
The situation was further aggravated by water releases from the Magat Dam, which he said has been going on for three days. But, again, there were sufficient warnings, as this is usual protocol, he said.
“SOP naman po ‘yung pagpapakawala, agad-agad nagbibigay ng kuwan (warning)… sabi ko nga saturated talaga ang soil at grabe po ‘yung buhos ng ulan. Sabay po ito , at of course ‘yung pagpapalabas ng Magat, dati rati ganyan naman ‘yan nagpapakawala,” the governor said.
(It’s SOP for them to release water and they readily issue warnings… Like I said the soil is already saturated and the rains were heavy. And along with that, the water release from Magat, that’s what they usually do.)
He said they will “try to investigate” but asserted that there was prior warning. He said the volume of water was just “enormous.”
Mamba said the disaster in his province was the result of years of environmental abuse, pointing to “unabated illegal logging even if there is already a total log ban.”
“Through the years napabayaan po ito and I think we have to have a holistic approach to do this, mahirap naman po ako na magturo ako kung saan because I think it’s a summation of what is happening in our environment,” he said.
(Through the years this was neglected and I think we have to have a holistic approach to do this, it’s hard to point blame because I think it’s a summation of what is happening in our environment.)
“Sa akin po (for me) I think that all the sacrifices and suffering should serve as a lesson to all of us here and it should also open the eyess of the national government,” said Mamba, thanking the national government for response.
He said residents should expect worse flooding to happen in the coming years if they do not learn lessons from the experience.
“It’s just the start of the worst that will have to come, kaya dapat ho siguro matuto tayo sa mga nagnayayri sa atin ngayon (that’s why we have to learn from this),” Mamba said.
“I know this will serve us a lesson for all of us and let us not forget ito ho lalala ito every year (this will get worse every year),” he said.