Several flooded villages remain isolated

PAMPANGA -- Several villages and towns in Pampanga province and Bulacan remain isolated a few days after the onslaught of back-to-back typhoons, affecting thousands of people.

Still submerged in 15-feet high floodwaters are the towns of San Simon, Candaba, Apalit, Masantol, San Luis and Macabebe in Pampanga province. Also affected are some barangays in Arayat, Sta. Ana and Mexico, including parts of Bacolor.

In Bulacan, Mayor James de Jesus of worst-hit Calumpit town said that at least 15 villages were still inaccessible and evacuation centers crowded with about 15,000 people.

The floodwaters slowly receded Monday though, amid appeals for more boats to bring food and water to residents refusing to abandon inundated homes.

Many residents staying on rooftops for days still refused to leave their homes for fear of burglars and instead asked to be delivered food and supplies. Others who took advantage of rescue boats lined up in long lines with containers to get drinking water.

"For now, we need rescue teams with rubber boats. We need to distribute food and water to the families stranded by the floods. I cannot reach all of them personally," de Jesus said in a radio interview.

He also appealed for additional police to guard against looters, with some people complaining about stolen property.

"Floods are receding, but some areas remain flooded," said Bulacan provincial disaster official Raul Agustin, adding that rescuers had difficulty reaching riverside villages because of strong currents.

Aside from the flooding, at least 59 people were killed by Typhoon Pedring (international codename: Nesat) that hit the northern Philippines last week. Typhoon Quiel (international codename: Nalgae) killed at least three people Saturday.

Officials in Pampanga and Bulacan continued with the rescue and relief operations Monday, especially in areas badly-hit by the typhoons.

Mayor Oscar Rodriguez of the City of San Fernando said they have extended assistance to neighboring towns adversely affected by deep flooding brought by Typhoons Pedring and Quiel.

“Except for some real low-lying areas in the city like Barangay Pandaras, which is a water repository ever since, there are serious damages to infrastructure and no deep flooding that are alarming,” he told Sun.Star Pampanga.

Last Sunday, Rodriguez sent drinking water, relief goods and rescue personnel to the eight isolated villages of Masantol town.

“What we are doing right now is helping our neighboring towns with people who are still in deep floodwaters by giving relief goods and extending other aid. We are thankful we were generally spared but we are prepared for any eventuality. Our Sagip Ilog helped a lot in averting massive flooding. If not for that, we could have been affected too,” he said.

The Fernandino team, led by City Administrator Ferdinand Caylao, meanwhile, had to take the alternate route in Calumpit, Bulacan to reach the isolated Kapampangan villages. The team boarded a special vehicle that withstood strong water current.

Some of those who received the assistance said they are glad that government officials provided them relief goods that are enough for a couple of days.

“Salamat sa relief na ipinamigay. Malaking bagay ito sa aming mahihirap lalo na hindi kami makapagtrabaho ngayon (I am thankful for the relief goods. This is a big help for us),” said Francis Salac, a resident of Candaba, Pampanga.

Salac, a tricycle driver and father of five, is afraid though that if floodwaters do not subside, his children will get hungry.

“Wala kaming mapagkunan ngayon. Hindi ako makapamasada dahil sa baha. Sa ngayon, umaasa lang kami sa ibinibigay na relief ng mga nasa gobyerno (I cannot go to work because of the flooding. We only rely on the relief goods provided to us by the government),” he added.

As the Candaba town is submerged in floodwaters, local traders have temporarily left their stalls in the public market and moved to higher ground to continue with their business.

Some of them even use small boats -- tied near the public market -- to sell goods and other basic necessities to the residents.

The residents, however, are complaining about the prices of rice being sold by some traders which according to them is “too much”.

“Yung NFA na dapat ibenta sa mas mababang halaga ay ginagawa nilang commercial rice. Noong unang nga ay nakabili ako ng NFA dyan sa halagang P35 (They are selling NFA rice as a commercial rice. I even bought an NFA rice at P35 per kilo),” Eustaquia De Leon, another resident, said.

Over the weekend, only boats and tractors, locally called "tora-toras", can enter Candaba and other submerged towns in Pampanga and Bulacan.

As of Monday, three dump trucks owned by Candaba Mayor Jerry Pelayo serve as the only means of transportation going to the town proper.

Pampanga Governor Lilia Pineda said Monday that Provincial Capitol might seek the assistance of the National Government in establishing a resettlement site for residents living near the banks of the Pampanga River.

She said the Provincial Government has enough evacuation centers with facilities that could accommodate some 35,000 families or 175,000 residents in case they voluntary evacuate from their flooded homes, where water has reached rooftops.

Officials called on the public and concerned groups to help in the relief and rescue operations, especially that another weather disturbance is expected to enter the Philippine area of responsibility by next week.

As of Monday, Typhoon Quiel was headed for China’s Hainan Island and central Vietnam, where the worst seasonal flooding in more than a decade has killed 11 people, including five children, over the past week in the southern Mekong Delta.

Quiel, which followed closely after Typhoon Pedring last week, is the 17th storm to enter the Philippines this year. (With Jovi de Leon and Charlene Cayabyab of Sun.Star Pampanga/AP/Sunnex)

Related story: Floods hit Mati, 13 towns in Maguindanao

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