La Union placed under calamity statePhilippine Daily Inquirer
SAN FERNANDO CITY—This La Union capital was bathing in warm sunshine on Thursday, when just the day before, most of the downtown areas were flooded for the first time in recent years.
At least 169 villages in 12 La Union towns and this city went under water due to Tropical Storm “Helen” when it crossed northern Luzon on Tuesday and Wednesday.
A report of the La Union Disaster Operation Center showed that 5,135 people had to be relocated to 40 evacuation centers. They have all returned home.
The floods started to rise on Tuesday midnight due to heavy rains dumped by Helen on its approach, and rains continued for days.
The province had been placed under a state of calamity last week due to the heavy monsoon rains.
“It has been raining for the past weeks before the floods came. Rains were already here since two weeks ago. Our plight had not drawn attention. Many residents were already affected and needed help and we needed to use the calamity fund,” said Vice Gov. Aureo Nisce.
He said the floods may be the worst yet to hit the province because “some areas which were not prone to flooding got flooded, and some areas, which had not experienced landslides, [suffered] landslides.”
“There was just too much [rain] water that San Fernando’s drainage system could not contain the [runoff] water,” he said.
Worse than ‘Pepeng’
About half of La Union’s land area is mountainous and serves as watershed, said provincial information officer Adamor Dagang. But the denuded conditions of these mountain forests could have worsened the floods, he said.
Many residents here said the Aug. 14-15 floods were worse than the impact of Typhoon “Pepeng” which struck in October 2009.
Ella Margarita Biascan, 74, said Barangay Nansimbaan in Bacnotan town, where she has lived all her life, was flood-prone. That was why when the water started rising, she at first refused to transfer to the house of Dagang, her son-in-law, which has a second floor.
“I was afraid as I waded through chest-deep flood to transfer to another house,” she said.
Dagang said that kind of rain was unexpected because the weather bureau raised only the yellow alert in the province, meaning there would be moderate to light rains. “But the rain was continuous and torrential,” he said.
La Union’s lone fatality when Helen struck was not due to floods but to electrocution. Dagang said the victim from Naguilian town was electrocuted on Wednesday when the tree branches he was cutting touched a live wire.
P2-M crop losses
Worst hit from Helen’s floods were 25 barangays of San Juan town, 25 of Naguilian, 22 of Agoo, 10 of Caba, 14 of Sto. Tomas, 14 of Bangar, 18 of Luna and 18 of Tubao.
La Union lost P2,104,239 worth of crops, mostly rice and vegetables.
The provincial government’s bangus and tilapia fingerlings project was also damaged. La Union lost 8,000 bangus fingerlings worth P112,000 and 18,000 tilapia fingerlings worth P27,000. Yolanda Sotelo, Inquirer Northern Luzon