Magnitude of loss, disruption from flooding ‘not seen before’
COTABATO CITY—The floodwater rolled into low-lying neighborhoods, swamping mansions, washing away tiny shacks and wrecking pieces of property in a magnitude not seen before.
The flood took aim at villages, mostly impoverished hamlets next to the rain-swollen Liguasan Marsh and its tributaries leading to the mighty Rio Grande de Mindanao.
Over the past week in the city, floodwater across the Notre Dame Avenue left rows of houses, shops, offices and schools closed.
The disaster has brought into focus the utter divide between the rich and poor across the city. Those who enjoyed travelling in their private vehicles before the floods began leaving their submerged homes in boats.
“What can we do, this is the only means to keep me dry?” bank employee Nor-ain Ibrahim, 26, said while negotiating De Mazenod Avenue.
“As long as the water is high and the roads are impassable, then these boats will save us,” she said, her neatly corporate dress tucked in a rainproof jacket.
Lyndra Macabuat, 27, who lived in a two-story apartment near the Notre Dame University, woke up to the shrieks and cheers of her two tots. “They were having fun in the ground, next to the stench of water and thrashing all over the place. And there, I noticed soiled diapers, even human feces. I couldn’t do more but to get to the water and grabbed them at once,” Macabuat said, obviously peeved.
The Macabuats packed their bags and moved to her uncle’s flat on Shariff Kabunsuan Street.
“I will never go back to that place again,” she swore. “I have been into this kind of flood, but nothing worse than this.”
Across the village, residents who have no contingency plans for the worst have erected makeshift shelters on raised concrete tracks that run alongside their submerged homes.
At the Notre Dame Village, desperation is growing among flood victims. Inside the lonely gated Zenaida Subdivision, the P2 million worth home of the Camaganacans is clogged waist-deep. At a dangerous moment when the flood waters continued to spread fast, Luisa Camaganacan, 76, a retired government worker, and her husband left for Davao City, leaving their son Joey to man the house.
In Maisula Lumundaw’s case, the floods consumed her entire house and much more—farm animals, utensils, clothing. They picked up whatever they can save—two scruffy blankets and clothes to live by a few days. But she carried a warm smile despite the arid feel inside the Cotabato City Pilot Elementary School, current relief shelter to about 1,000 families displaced by floods around low-lying villages in the city.
Their space, assembled from slices of tarpaulin and carton spread against the tough concrete floor, is bed to her son Tristan, 5, who is suspected of having diarrhea.
Maisula, 48, sat in silence on the ground, holding Tristan’s tiny hands, and said: “I think nobody will look after us here. If the government has something for us, they better give it now.”
On Tuesday, the Department of Social Welfare and Development-Central Mindanao released at least P6 million to cover for the nearly 700,000 people in various evacuation sites across the region, including the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Rosa May de Guzman-Maitem, Inquirer Mindanao
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