MANILA – Over 83,000 people have been rescued, transferred and assisted in Cagayan and Isabela, following severe flooding brought by successive storms that hit the Philippines, the state disaster response agency said Monday.
National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRMMC) spokesperson Mark Timbal also confirmed they were informed of the flooding situation in parts of Cagayan Valley region after many Filipinos only heard reports of the devastating floods on weekend.
“We were already aware of the flooding situation across the areas affected by Typhoon Ulysses,” he told ANC’s “Matters of Fact”.
Timbal said the delay of information coming from the region was partly due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“It could be attributed to the local COVID-19 policy wherein outsiders in both media and private sector and even government officials are not allowed immediately within the borders of various local governments to ensure COVID protection,” he said.
Asked if sufficient warnings were provided to residents in the affected provinces, Timbal said they had issued dozens of warnings in relation to possible occurrence of flooding and disseminated emergency alerts to mobile devices. They also advised local government units (LGUs) to utilize their communication network.
Timbal also maintained that the NDRMMC always advised LGUs in the path of the storm to conduct preventive evacuation while implementing forced evacuation was upon the discretion of local officials.
“Forced evacuation is left to the discretion of the local government units… because they’re the ones who can actually see the situation on the ground. Of course, this is always their option that the national government endorses for them to utilize or choose in cases of emergency,” he said.
Rescue operations are ongoing for some residents who remain trapped on their rooftops, Timbal said. The NDRMMC had deployed 3,700 search and rescue personnel, and 62 land assets, 30 sea assets and 9 air assets.
Some residents chose not to evacuate to look after their properties and livestock, and prevent possible looting, he added.
Data from NDRMMC as of Friday showed Ulysses left 67 people dead and 21 injured while 13 others remained missing.
Some 236 road sections and 98 bridges in parts of Luzon were affected by flooding, mudflow and landslide while dozens of cities and municipalities have experienced power and water outages and network interruption.