Holiday mood absent in flood-hit Samar town
TACLOBAN CITY—There was no excitement in welcoming the new year among residents of Lope de Vega town in Northern Samar province, which was devastated by floods triggered by heavy rains dumped by Tropical Depression “Usman.”
For Rodolfo Francisco, all he wanted was to rebuild his house at Barangay Sampaguita, which was destroyed by floods and strong wind.
On New Year’s Eve, Francisco, a farmer, was among the hundreds of storm survivors who trooped to the town hall to receive food aid from the provincial government.
“I don’t think about it (new year). All I think now is how I can rebuild whatever is left of our house, which has been destroyed by the typhoon,” said the 54-year-old Francisco.
He said all the houses at Barangay Sampaguita, about 7 kilometers from the town proper, were either destroyed or damaged by Usman.
Records from the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (MDRRMC) said 16 houses were destroyed while 14 others were damaged in Sampaguita, a remote village populated by 143 residents.
Some 3,930 families (14,700 people) were affected by floods and landslide that isolated the town. Floodwaters, residents said, reached up to 6 meters (two-story high). Five people died during the onslaught of Usman in Lope de Vega.
Mayor Ana Palloc echoed the sentiments of Francisco, saying the holiday mood was taken over by overwhelming sadness that swept across town.
“We are all sad. We could not celebrate the new year here because of the extent of damage that we have suffered. The town was practically dead silent [on New Year’s Eve],” Palloc said.
Electricity supply had yet to be restored in the town on Tuesday.
Palloc met the new year at the MDRRMC office to supervise relief operations.
She said that while the road going to the provincial capital of Catarman, about 28 km away, had been opened, only light vehicles and motorcycles could pass through, delaying the distribution of food aid to the town.
“Good thing [Northern Samar] Gov. Jose Ong was able to ask help from the military, which provided their helicopter to help in the distribution of food packs to my people,” she said.
Palloc said while floodwaters had receded, about 25 families were still staying at a public school and a church. “The families who returned to their barangays are now doing some cleaning and trying to rebuild their damaged or destroyed houses,” she said.
She said the local council would declare the town under a state of calamity on Wednesday.
Senior Insp. Ronnie Abendan, town police chief, said all policemen of Lope de Vega reported for work even as floodwaters swamped their station.
“We try to cope with the situation. We still managed to celebrate the new year, though with sadness. We shared simple food—chicken, pancit (noodles) and soda,” he said. “We are still grateful that we survived.”
Not losing hope
Abendan said Lope de Vega residents needed food, medicine and clothes.
“Practically, all barangays in the town were hit by flood, except for the villages of Roxas and Magsaysay, which are located on higher grounds,” Abendan said. Lope de Vega has 22 barangays.
Palloc urged townsfolk not to lose hope amid their situation. “We can survive this disaster. Let’s help each other,” she said.
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