‘Helen’ prompts 6 Luzon dams to release excess waterBy Jeannette I. Andrade, Marlon Ramos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Operators of six dams in Luzon have opened their gates to release excess water in anticipation of more rains from Tropical Storm “Helen,” a move that will worsen flooding in many communities.
Thousands of residents in areas to be affected by Helen have been moved to safer ground as government agencies start to conduct preemptive evacuation, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said on Monday.
“It’s better to ensure the safety of our people than wait for the effect of Helen,” said Edgardo Ollet, chief of the NDRRMC operations center.
The NDRRMC, meanwhile, said seven more bodies were recovered by retrieval teams from flooded villages in Central Luzon, bringing to 92 the death toll from last week’s heavy rains.
Ollet said local governments implemented early evacuation in the provinces of Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Catanduanes, Albay and Sorsogon in the Bicol region and in some parts of Samar and Eastern Visayas.
He said residents of coastal communities in northern Quezon province and around Laguna Lake in the provinces of Rizal and Laguna were also asked to leave their houses.
He said the new weather disturbance was expected to bring heavy rains and cause flooding in at least three regions, including Metro Manila, starting Monday night.
In Pampanga province, Gov. Lilia Pineda on Monday asked residents in flooded villages along the banks of Pampanga River to leave and transfer either to evacuation centers or to the houses of their relatives.
As of 2 p.m. yesterday, Angat Dam in Bulacan opened three gates by 0.75 meter each, releasing 440 cubic meters per second (cms) after water levels reached 215.23 m, beyond its normal high level of 210 m, the weather bureau’s Hydrometeorology Division (HMD) said.
Magat Dam in Isabela opened a gate by 2 m after its water level exceeded its normal high level.
Ipo Dam in Bulacan opened three gates by 2 m each as the 100.43-m water level drew nearer the normal high of 100.80 m.
Two gates of Ambuklao Dam in Benguet have been opened, releasing water at a rate of 246 cms although the water level of 751.23 m was below its normal high level of 752 m.
The HMD said Binga Dam in Benguet opened three gates after its water level reached 574.73 m, closer to its 575-m normal high.
San Roque Dam in Pangasinan kept a gate open by half a meter, releasing water at a rate of 330 cms. The dam catches water released from Ambuklao and Binga Dams downstream through Agno River.
Hydrologist Roy Padilla told the Inquirer that the water released from Angat might add to flooding in several submerged Bulacan towns, particularly Baliuag, Pulilan, Plaridel and Norzagaray.
He said residents in these areas had been alerted of the water to be released from Angat.
Gerardo Esquivel of the Manila Waterworks and Sewerage System said spillage from Angat Dam would contribute only 5 percent to the flooding in several Bulacan towns.
He said what was flooding the towns in the province was the heavy rainfall that swelled Pampanga River and its tributaries.
Raul Agustin of the Bulacan Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council told the Inquirer that he did not think the already submerged towns could take water released from the dam at more than 500 cms.
“Most of the towns, particularly Hagonoy and Calumpit, are still flooded in 5 feet of water from the swell of Pampanga River,” Agustin said.
Speaking through radio station dwRW, Pampanga Governor Pineda said the provincial government had opened evacuation centers in Clark Freeport and public gymnasiums in Mabalacat City and Magalang and Porac towns.
City of San Fernando Mayor Oscar Rodriguez said the city government would resort to forced evacuation if residents in high-risk villages refused to seek safety in evacuation centers.
As of Monday, 22 of 35 villages in the Pampanga capital remained flooded. More than 4,200 people were still staying in school buildings that have been turned into evacuation centers.
Monday’s heavy rain caused a river in Rosario, Cavite province, to overflow, resulting in waist-deep flooding in at least three coastal villages.
Rosario Mayor Jose “Nonong” Ricafrente said the water rose at around 6 a.m. when there was high tide.
In Laguna, the number of families staying in 157 evacuation centers rose to 20,209 people because Laguna de Bay was still swollen.
The Laguna Lake Development Authority said the water in the lake remained at 13.87 meters above sea level (it was 13.82 m on Friday) since the break in the bad weather over the weekend.
Jing Nolasco of the provincial disaster office said evacuees cramped in evacuation centers started contracting colds, fever and athlete’s foot due to long exposure to the flood.
The provincial government of Laguna has yet to lift the state of calamity with its 18 lakeshore towns still flooded.
A brief storm surge and heavy rain hit Maasin City on Monday, causing a blackout in several towns in Southern Leyte at around 6 p.m. Reports from Tonette Orejas, Carmela Reyes-Estrope and Armand Galang, Inquirer Central Luzon; Vincent Cabreza and Villamor Visaya Jr., Inquirer Northern Luzon; Maricar Cinco, Inquirer Southern Luzon; and Jani Arnaiz, Inquirer Visayas