Face masks, shields clogging drains blamed for Baguio flood
BAGUIO CITY — An accumulation of trash, mostly discarded face masks and plastic face shields used as protection in the pandemic, clogged water inlets and caused flooding on major streets here at the height of Severe Tropical Storm “Maring’’ early this week.
Mayor Benjamin Magalong said the flooding, which was gutter-deep in some areas, could have been avoided if the drainage system had remained unobstructed.
“I deplore the irresponsible and indiscriminate disposal of face masks and face shields in our drainage system. We do not need complications brought about by such irresponsibility. We should know better,” the mayor said in a statement on Tuesday.
Flooding was reported in at least 20 areas across the city during the storm, some near waterways, and natural gullies.
Above monthly average
Maring dumped 625.3 millimeters of rain on Baguio, more than a month’s worth in a 24-hour period ending on Tuesday morning and which exceeded the amount of rainfall from other strong typhoons in previous years.
Wider drainage pipes were installed early this year along major streets, including Harrison Road and the road surrounding Burnham Lake.
The drainage system was designed to accommodate the Baguio’s rainfall volume, which is considered the highest in the country.
According to Bonifacio dela Peña, the city administrator, the recent flooding should not have happened since the new drainage system links up to big tunnels built by the American colonial administrators who designed the city in the 1900s.
He said rainwater quickly drained into new underground pipes after the 4-inch water inlets along the streets were cleared of garbage.
“It was not a failure of our new drainage system,” said Dela Peña, a geodetic engineer and former dean of engineering at Saint Louis University (SLU).
He said small rocks and gravel also found obstructing water flow in the inlets, as well as thick layers of pine tree needles from the park.
But it was the “inexplicable presence” of face shields that baffled engineers, he said. “These shields had to come from somewhere… maybe trash cans turned over and the rubbish flowed with the runoff water.”
Asked if the city would consider easing the mandate on face shields because of their impact on waste management, Dela Peña said it would be part of a review of protocols once COVID-19 infections drop.
Baguio City remains under general community quarantine (GCQ) with heightened restrictions until the end of October.
He said the city’s engineers were also checking if homes and buildings built near local waterways are either obstructing the current or at risk of collapse.
At the start of the year, the city planning office improved Baguio’s geological hazard map by identifying structures located within vulnerable zones.
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