Village offers evacuation modelBy Jo Martinez-Clemente
Inquirer Central Luzon
PANIQUI, Tarlac—With floods being a regular occurrence in their community, residents of Purok 5 and 6 in Barangay Salomague here have developed an efficient system of evacuation whenever floodwater creeps into their homes and farms.
Where before they would grab whatever they could when rescue teams haul them into dump trucks to be moved to higher ground, today they know what to bring—portable beds, blankets and other necessities.
This happens every year, said resident Virginia de la Cruz.
“We bring beds and other materials to the evacuation center. This situation disrupts our lives but we need to adjust to the situation each time,” she said.
Samuel Rombaoa, Salomague village chief, said village officials evacuated residents thrice last year.
Barangay Salomague lies at the lowest portion of Paniqui. In 2004, a permanent evacuation center was built in the village. Before that, residents sought shelter in the nearest public school.
In the worst of times, residents paddle their way to evacuation centers on boats when water from the Salomague River spills into farms, roads and houses.
“When this happens, when all we see around the evacuation center is water, this means water in our district would be very, very deep,” De la Cruz said.
The evacuation center is perched on an elevated area of the village, and each district, or purok, has its own boat.
De la Cruz’s family, including her newly born granddaughter, Isha Mae, had been at the center during the last five days. Her daughter-in-law, she said, was in labor when they evacuated and gave birth at the barangay health center early this week.
With their house flooded, the mother and daughter went “home” to the evacuation center.
Other flood victims have been at the center for two weeks now and the number of those seeking shelter grows by the day. As of noon of Aug. 7, at least 132 families are staying at the center.
Nine villages in this town were flooded on that day, forcing the town council to declare a state of calamity in four of the villages—Salomague, Tablang, San Isidro and Apulid.
Evacuation centers had been built in the villages of San Isidro and Apulid in 2004.
Mayor Miguel Rivilla said he was thankful there were permanent evacuation centers in his town and that residents went to these centers voluntarily, eliminating the need for the local government to evacuate them, especially when flooding comes at night.
Rivilla, however, said there must be a better way to deal with the flooding than people getting used to being displaced.
“An engineering intervention as simple as dredging the creeks and river channels is the permanent solution,” he said.
“Look at all the river channels that go downstream into these barangays, they are all silted,” he added.