Flood, landslide victims in Camarines Sur town appeal for help
BUHI, CAMARINES SUR — By the time four gravediggers were carrying another body bag up the hilly Buhi cemetery on Wednesday, Joshua Labro, 21, and his family had already buried his 1-year-old daughter, Jessa Mae, who was among those killed in flash floods and a landslide that hit two villages here on Saturday.
On Wednesday, 12 of 18 bodies had been identified by their families. All of them were members of the indigenous peoples group, Mt. Iraya Agta.
Labro said there was nothing left of their house after the flash floods and landslide struck their community, killing his daughter and his wife, Gloria Competente.
“There were three families in that house, including mine,” he said. “At 9 p.m. (Saturday), we were about to evacuate when the water suddenly rose and the strong current washed out our house.”
Only Labro, his sister and brother-in-law survived as mud and water washed out houses along the Iraya River.
Labro said residents of Sitio Caloocan in Iraya had no evacuation center in times of calamity.
Iraya, a village across Buhi Lake from the town proper, had never experienced anything like the impact of Tropical Depression “Usman,” he said.
Domingo Competente, 56, Labro’s father-in-law, also could not remember a calamity that would compare to the devastation brought by Usman.
He said they built a makeshift shelter out of scrap wood to protect family members from the elements. The shelter, however, stood atop a pile of mud from the landslide.
“We need any help that we can get. We have no jobs and no homes for us to survive,” Competente said. “We need a place to sleep.”
Some families in Iraya sought shelter in three passenger motorboats as heavy rains pounded the village.
At least six families had been staying in a boat since the night of Dec. 28 “because our homes are still under mud and logs.”
Sharing a boat
The family of Maryjane Rabacal had been sharing a boat on the Iraya River with five others—the Del Rosario, Nuñez, Llaneta, Malate and Haber families.
Rabacal said it was their first time to seek shelter in boats even as the village had been hit by typhoons in past years.
“We did not expect that the water would rise. When it did, I told them to stay in the boat to avoid being trapped inside our houses,” Rabacal said.
As of Wednesday afternoon, 14 villages in Buhi were still flooded after Buhi Lake, Rinaga River and Suwong River overflowed.
Susana Gabalpin, 74, had to sell her betel nuts on the sidewalk because her store was still submerged.
She said water level in their village of Santa Elena, where the public market is located, reached the roofs of houses.
Carmelita Marquez, municipal disaster risk reduction and management officer, said residents displaced by the floods and landslide needed livelihood and relocation.
“That’s the best help just in case this happens again,” Marquez said. “They also need livelihood. How will they recover after they lost their businesses to the floods?”
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