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Dog saves girl in Cagayan de Oro flashflood

/ 03:09 PM December 21, 2011

CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines—Seven-year-old Jennylou Yecyec now knows that the dog they never even named was truly her best friend.

When the rampaging waters came to Isla de Oro last Friday, Jennylou, her parents Nilo and Marilou, and her brother Mark decided to climb up the roof of their house where they thought— like many of their neighbors— they would be safe.

They were all wrong.

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Their house, made of light materials, put up no resistance to the swirling tide, estimated at about 30 feet high, and quickly crumbled. The Yecyec family found themselves bobbing in the swirling waters.

Marilou said she managed to grab a flat piece of wood and held on to Jennylou while her husband, Nilo, and her son, Mark, also struggled against the strong current. The family dog was frantically swimming nearby.

A whirlpool that came out of nowhere swallowed every one of them, just like the dozens of other people struggling to get out of harm’s way.

Marilou said Jennylou and the dog, which her family had for three years but never gave a name to, got separated from the rest of them.

The girl recounted that while she gasped for breath, the dog, then pregnant, tried hard not to drift away from her.

“It’s as if it did not want to leave my side,” she said.

As she continued to gasp for air, Jennylou said, the dog would bump her lightly, as if trying to tell her something.

“So I piggybacked on her and she did the swimming,” Jennylou recounted.

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Out in the open sea, where the rampaging water dumped her and her dog, Jennylou said the already exhausted mongrel navigated towards a plank of wood floating nearby. As soon as she clung to the log, Jennylou said, the dog went under  and was never seen again.

At daybreak, rescuers on a rubber boat plucked Jennylou and several others from the sea. She was later  reunited with the rest of her family, who also survived the nightmare.

Marilou said the family could not thank the dog enough for saving her life.

“I would have died if not for our dog,” Jennylou said in the evacuation center where her family has been temporarily staying.

Now, the Yecyec family and their neighbors want to start picking up the pieces again. It is most likely they will return to Isla de Oro once more to rebuild their lives there.

“We lived there because there is no other place for us,” said Rodenio Bulido, 50, a pedicab driver.

Buko vendor Roldan Butron, 24, said President Benigno Aquino was correct in saying that Isla de Oro was not safe to live in. But he said like many villagers, he too braved the risks because he had no other place to go to.

“Even Mayor (Vicente) Emano had no idea where to move us,” he said.

Isla de Oro, a sandbar on the mouth of the Cagayan de Oro River, was among the neighborhoods swamped by a flood in January 2009. Although the death toll was relatively low at only five, the 2009 flood displaced nearly 40,000 here and in nearby Misamis Oriental province.

A geo-hazard map subsequently drawn up by environmental experts showed that the area was prone to  chronic flooding.

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TAGS: Animals, Cagayan de Oro, disaster, Dogs, Flood, Sendong
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