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3 more deaths reported in Pangasinan; floodwaters break SCTEx bridge

SCTEX bridge collapses

Contributed photo by Vicoy Ong

MANILA, Philippines—The Malolos Diocese in Bulacan province-led Catholics in reciting the Oracion Emparata, a novena believed to drive away calamitous rains, and Wednesday’s exit of tropical storm “Maring” might have been the answer to their prayers.

Since Tuesday, Fr. Dario Cabral, Diocesan chief of the social communications committee, had been urging parishes to recite the oracion.  It begins with the plea: “Our Father who is all powerful, we recognize the fact that water is life so do not allow it to kill.”

But the monsoon rains have not let up in northern and central Luzon.

A 20-meter section of the San Fernando-Sto. Tomas-Minalin Tail Dike that waters breached in Minalin, Pampanga province, had completely sagged as of Tuesday night, and the damaged section had widened by more than 40 meters by Wednesday, the town’s mayor, Edgar Flores, said.

More than 200 families in Barangay Sta. Rita were evacuated to southern Minalin to escape waist-deep to neck-deep floods.

The death toll from the extreme monsoon rains in Central Luzon increased from four to seven, while Pangasinan officials reported three deaths from drowning, as of Tuesday.

Major routes through Luzon have also been cut off, particularly a section of the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx).

An official of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) said on Wednesday that it could take weeks before motorists could again use the Pasig-Potrero Bridge at the Porac, Pampanga, section of the expressway.

The BCDA closed the bridge at 4 p.m. on Tuesday after waters carrying old volcanic sediments eroded the embankment of the bridge approach or the section where traffic enters, Joshua Bingcang, an engineer and project manager of the BCDA-SCTEx services department.

He said the approach that collapsed was two meters long and 20 meters wide or about three lanes.

Bingcang did not provide an estimate of the repair schedule. “Since this is an emergency situation, we can immediately engage designers and contractors,” he said.

Rampaging waters also damaged the embankment of the approach of the SCTEx’s Apalit Bridge in Floridablanca.

The Tollways Management Corp., which operates the SCTEx, fielded patrol crews at Clark South and Porac interchanges to redirect traffic coming from Tarlac and Subic, respectively.

For motorists coming from Tarlac going to Subic, TMC said they could take the Clark South exit then take the Clark Friendship-Manibaug Road going to SCTEx’s Porac interchange.

Motorists from Subic going to Tarlac or Manila may exit Porac interchange then take the Manibaug-Friendship Road going to Clark South interchange.

The damaged San Fernando-Sto. Tomas-Minalin Tail Dike is still the most immediate danger in Pampanga.

Flores said up to 10 sections of the dike have been relying on retaining walls, as the earth that reinforced it has been washed down by rains.

The damaged sections of the dike are located behind the warehouse of the Minalin Poultry and Livestocks Cooperative, one of the largest cooperatives in the country.

The widening of the breached section of the dike also shifted 70 percent of the water from Gugu River toward the City of San Fernando and nearby Sto. Tomas town, Flores said.

“Only 30 percent is heading toward Sta. Ursula,” he said, referring to the downstream of nearby Guagua town, which heads out to Sasmuan town and finally, Manila Bay.

Pampanga Rep. Juan Pablo Bondoc said the Department of Public Works and Highways should be held “responsible for the new disaster” that struck this part of the district.

“The [sub-allotment release order for P137 million] showed the funds were made available in March, but since the channels for the water to flow downstream were not desilted, the dike became a dam, which now burst,” Bondoc said in a text message.

Antonio Molano, DPWH Central Luzon director, said the agency must follow a process before it could proceed with projects like dike repairs.

The tail dike is a 10-km sand pocket downstream of the 57-km FVR Megadike, which was finished in 1997 to trap the volcanic sediments from the 1991 eruptions of Mt. Pinatubo.

Pampanga Gov. Lilia Pineda asked the DPWH Central Luzon office to install metal sheet piles to plug the damaged portions.

Water in four dams in Central Luzon continued to rise due to intermittent rains.

In Bulacan, Angat Dam recorded reservoir levels at 195.87 meters above sea level (masl), Ipo Dam at 100.12 masl and Bustos Dam at 17.50 masl. In Nueva Ecija province, Pantabangan Dam listed its reservoir level at 191.25 masl. One gate at Ipo Dam was opened at .30 meter, the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (RDRRMC) said.

On Wednesday, Pampanga recorded 149 flooded villages; Bulacan, 71; Bataan, 36; Zambales, 20; and Tarlac, 11. The floods affected 143,374 families (670,186 people).

The Pampanga provincial board, on the recommendation of the PDRRMC, declared the province under a state of calamity on Tuesday evening to access P100 million in calamity funds.

In the City of San Fernando, the engineer’s office reinforced on Tuesday the side of the tail dike as sand bags on the earth side had been eroded. At least 15 villages in the city were flooded, affecting 1,521 families, 825 of whom had moved to schools serving as evacuation centers.

In Bataan province, Gov. Albert Garcia declared a state of calamity after floods affected 160,000 residents. He said the worst-hit towns were Hermosa and Dinalupihan.

In Pangasinan province, incessant monsoon rains in the last four days flooded 162 villages in 11 towns and cities, the provincial DRRMC  said.

The flooded towns were Aguilar, Bugallon, Labrador, Lingayen, Mangatarem, Calasiao, Bayambang, Sta. Barbara and Mangaldan and the cities of Urdaneta and Dagupan.

Worse-hit was Mangatarem, with 72 of its 82 villages flooded. The town lies along the Agno River.

Floods also submerged 5,738.5 hectares of riceland in 14 towns and 38.25 hectares of vegetable farms in two other towns.

Some 700 hectares of fish ponds also overflowed in 31 villages of four towns, releasing some P12.43 million worth of bangus, tilapia, malaga and prawns.

Sta. Barbara was declared under a state of calamity after all of its villages went under water, damaging 169 hectares of riceland.

Many residents, particularly in Calasiao and Sta. Barbara, blamed the San Roque Dam for the floods, said Tom Valdez, vice president for corporate social responsibility of the San Roque Power Corp. in San Manuel town.

“Talks have been going around that Dagupan, Calasiao and Sta. Barbara got flooded because the dam has released water. But we have not opened any of our spillway gates,” Valdez said.

At 10 a.m. Wednesday, the water level at San Roque Dam was 266.54 masl, which was 13.46 meters below its spilling level of 280 masl, he said.

The monsoon rains claimed five more lives in Pampanga, Bulacan and Pangasinan on Tuesday. Two of them were Roman Sanchez, who was electrocuted, and Lodigario Plasilo, who drowned, according to the Central Luzon RDRRMC.

Sanchez, 29, was retrieving clothes and appliances from his flooded house in Purok 7 in Sta. Maria in Lubao, Pampanga, when he stepped on a live wire. The body of Plasilo, 53, was found floating past his house along the Meycauayan River in Bulacan.

In Bulacan, the body of a woman, who might have drowned in Bulakan town, was recovered on Wednesday.

In Pangasinan, Eduardo Ragos, 50, of Bayambang town, drowned as he tried to save his animals from being swept away by the strong current of the Agno River.

In Mangatarem, Salvador Sacopla, 25, and his sister Janice, 15, were swept away by the strong current of the Dorongan Sawat River as they hunted for field rats, said Chief Insp. Fidel Junio, the town police chief. Dorongan Sawat River is a tributary of Agno River.

In the Cordillera, rescue workers have yet to find three missing people, including Irene Manaois who vanished inside one of the caves in Sagada, Mt. Province. Manaois was part of a group of 30 Japanese tourists who were trapped in the caves on Sunday. The Japanese and other tourists were rescued on Monday.

Reports from Tonette Orejas, Carmela Reyes-Estrope, Robert Gonzaga, Jun Malig, and Armand Galang, Inquirer Central Luzon, and Gabriel Cardinoza, Yolanda Sotelo and Kim Quitasol, Inquirer Northern Luzon

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Tags: Bulacan , Catholic Church , Charity , floodwaters , Fr. Dario Cabral , Malolos Diocese , mission , natural disaster , Oracion Emparata , outreach , Pangasinan , Regions , relief and rehabilitation , rescue , SCTEx , Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway

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