When Jose Jallorina Jr. and his family saw the water from the Tigaplan River in Brgy. Pangobilian raging towards them, they immediately left their home and made their way to safety, taking only their most important belongings and abandoning the rest.
Their house, which is made of mostly light materials, is located near the sea in the said barangay in Brooke’s Point, but it was floodwaters from Tigaplan that inundated it on the morning of January 4 as a result of the persistent rain that had been falling the night before.
“Pagkagising ko ng alas syete ng umaga, pinagmamasdan ko yung kalsada at napansin ko na tumataas yung tubig, hanggang sa umabot na doon sa hagdanan ng bahay namin,” he said.
“Yung ragasa ng tubig galing sa Tigaplan mabilis,” Jallorina, who couldn’t walk fast enough due to weak knees, described.
The town’s Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (MDRRMO) first responders, he said, picked up and relocated them from the area where they had sought safety to an evacuation center.
The 63-year-old Brooke’s Point resident recalled that the last time he experienced flooding of such a magnitude was in 1975. Back then, their town was completely different from what it is today.
“Noong 1975, dyan sa kalsada dyan sa kabayanan, hanggang tuhod ang tubig baha,” Jallorina said.
Delma Esquilon, 65, was attempting to calm a baby to sleep in her arms when Palawan News found her in a shelter for evacuees. She described that the flooding that occurred in their town was the first time in her life that she had ever felt fear.
She mentioned that the flood waters were already up to her waist when she and her family, which included seven young children, were forced to evacuate.
“Yung mga apo ko, nakatuntong doon sa may parte ng bahay namin na hindi pa abot ng tubig. Karga ko ang bag, karga ko ang bata, ang sabi ko sige mauna na kayo. Wala akong nadampot maski ano na mahalaga kasi nawala na sa isip ko,” she said.
“Sa katagal tagal naming nakatira dyan, ngayon lang nangyari ito,” she added.
“Bigla yung pagtaas ng tubig kaya wala kaming nadalang gamit. Malakas yung agos tapos ang kinatakutan namin yung mga ahas, alakdan,” she said.
Brooke’s Point hardest hit
The Jallorinas and Esquilons were only two of the 4,975 families (20,937 individuals) evacuated from Brooke’s Point, the municipality hardest hit by floods caused by a low-pressure area (LPA) that began pouring down on the night of January 3 and throughout the day of January 4.
Municipal administrator Ed Lacandazo said he considers the flooding to be the worst that has ever occurred in their place.
“I think this is the biggest. Ang natatandaan ko is noong 1970s, which is mayroong typhoon. Ito naman LPA lang and I think ito yung pinakamalaki talaga, the worst kasi pati kabayanan binaha, na hindi natin ma-imagine,” he said.
Lacandazo said Mayor Cesareo Benedito Jr. is continuously monitoring the situation from the impact of the LPA.
“He is making rounds in the barangays to check the situation and address the concerns of affected families,” Lacandazo said.
Number of evacuees up
Based on the latest situational report released by the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) Friday morning, 3,841 families or 18,082 individuals are currently sheltered in 42 evacuation centers (ECs) from 16 out of 18 barangays of the town while others have already returned home.
MDRRMO officer-in-charge Joey Herredero said the most affected barangays are Barong-Barong, where there are reports of damaged houses, and Ipilan and Mambalot.
There were also reports of missing people, but he stated that after confirmation and verification, it was “negative, so zero casualties tayo.”
On December 26, the town was also inundated by flood waters due to the effects of the shear line and monsoon rains. The number of families affected at the time was 1,550 in Aribungos, Barongbarong, Mambalot, Malis, Pangobilian, Saraza, and Tubtub.
This prompted the municipal council to declare Brooke’s Point under a state of calamity for one month.
Herredero explained that with the declaration of state of calamity, they have a budget of around P9 million to secure enough relief goods.
He went on to say that, in comparison to the floods last December, this year is far worse because almost all barangays are directly affected.
“We are also expecting donations and enough naman yung pondo kasi nag-declare na kami ng state of calamity last December,” he said.
“Noong December, nasa maximum of eight barangays lang ang affected but now, isa lang yung barangay (Calasaguen) na wala halos report na ibinigay,” he added.
Towns flooded in Southern Palawan
Four towns are affected by the floods in Southern Palawan—Brooke’s Point, Rizal, Narra, and Sofronio Española—and the number of families impacted has risen from 2,713 (8,637 individuals) on January 5 to 5,431 families (22,753 individuals) as of January 6.
According to PDRRMO chief Jeremias Alili, the sudden increase in number occurred after they were able to access previously isolated areas, and other barangay officials were able to send reports after power was partially restored, particularly in Brooke’s Point.
“[Kung] mapapansin niyo po, tumaas ang number. Dahil yan sa napasok na ang mga isolated na barangays kahapon at nakapag-report na ang mga punong barangay kagabi matapos bumalik partially ang kuryente,” Alili explained.
The PDRRMO report also stated that an assessment of the severity and estimated cost of farms and livestock affected in Brgy. Imulnod is still ongoing.
In Sofronio Española town, 420 families (1,728) individuals are currently sheltered in three evacuation centers, MDRRMO operations and warning in charge Brendo Malvas said.
Aside from this, Malvas said he also received reports from Brgy. Pulot Shore where 98 families (507 individuals) are sheltered in the barangay hall.
“Ang mga evacuees natin ay galing sa mga barangay ng Iraray, Pulot Center at Pulot Shore. Yun yung mga area na mataas talaga ang tubig,” he said.
“So far wala naman tayong reported na affected sa agriculture. Mga residents lang ang naapektuhan. May mga area lang na medyo nahirapan pasukin ng sasakyan kaya medyo na-delay yung pag-responde namin lalo na yung sa Pulot Shore,” he added.
The town of Narra also reported 23 families (79 individuals) were rescued and housed in two evacuation centers, but the PDRRMO said they have since gone back to their homes.