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WET BURIAL Mourners transport the body of a loved one in a white coffin rigged to a boat down a flooded street in Calumpit, Bulacan. AFP

Residents of coastal towns in Pampanga and Bulacan will have to deal with floods for at least four to five more days following back-to-back typhoons, a flood forecaster said Sunday.

Floods of longer duration are expected this week near the banks of the Pampanga River in the towns of Arayat, Sta. Ana, Candaba, San Luis, San Simon, Apalit, Macabebe and Masantol in Pampanga, said Hilton Hernando, the chief of the Pampanga River Basin Flood Forecasting and Warning Center.

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Hernando said floods would also linger in the towns of Calumpit, Hagonoy and Paombong in Bulacan.

The Pampanga River, which is connected to the Sierra Madre and the Caraballo, is where more than 30 river systems in Central Luzon converge before the river water discharges into the Manila Bay.

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The swollen Pampanga River has started receding slowly on Sunday, said Hernando.

But experts expect the river to again rise on Sunday night or Monday morning as Nueva Ecija drains out a “substantial” volume of water from rains triggered by Typhoon “Quiel,” he said.

A total of 1,174 villages—327 in Bulacan and 333 in Pampanga—remain flooded on Sunday, according to reports of the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) in Central Luzon.

Rescuers scrambled to deliver food and water to hundreds of villagers stuck on rooftops for days because of flooding in the northern and central areas of Luzon, where Quiel and Typhoon “Pedring” have left at least 55 people dead.

On Saturday, Quiel slammed ashore in Isabela, then barreled across Luzon’s mountainous north and agricultural plains that were still sodden from fierce rain and wind unleashed by a howler just days earlier.

Quiel left at least three people dead on Saturday while Pedring killed 52 others before blowing out on Friday.

As of 4 p.m. on Sunday, Quiel’s center was spotted 370 kilometers west of Baguio City, with maximum sustained winds of 120 km per hour near the center and gusts of 150 kph.

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All public storm warning signals were lifted in the afternoon.

In its advisory, the weather bureau said a weakened Quiel left the Philippine area of responsibility Sunday afternoon and headed to Vietnam.

Rockslide in Bontoc

The typhoon’s ferocious wind set off a rockslide in Bontoc province on Saturday, causing boulders to roll down a mountainside and smash on a passing van, where a passenger was pinned to death and another was injured, police said.

In Camiling, Tarlac, a man and his two young nephews sought safety as flooding rose in their village on Saturday. But one of the children was swept away by rampaging waters and drowned. His uncle and brother were still missing.

A drunk man drowned in flooding in a nearby village, said provincial disaster officer Marvin Guiang.

Quiel soaked the Cordillera mountain range, and water cascading from the slopes was expected to further swell tributaries and rivers in the flood-prone Central Luzon plains before draining into the Manila Bay.

Benito Ramos, OCD administrator, said many residents refused calls to be rescued from their homes despite repeated warnings they were putting themselves in harm’s way.

“Water from the Cordilleras could reach the plains today and there is a possibility that there won’t be any more rooftops left to see if that catches up with water from Nesat (Pedring’s international name) that’s just now subsiding,” he said.

Frustrated emergency teams had fanned out across the area but could not force people off their roofs, he said.

Pangasinan

In Pangasinan, Quiel left at least 41 villages in 17 towns flooded from storm surges and from water flowing from damaged dikes.

The coastal towns of Anda, Infanta, Bolinao, Bani, Binmaley, Bugallon, Lingayen and San Fabian, and Dagupan City experienced flash floods because of storm surges and high tide.

Reports from the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said Quiel left five people missing and sent more than 7,000 others to evacuation centers.

The provincial police said four of those missing were fishermen from Barangay (village) Germinal in Bolinao, who sailed to the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) on Saturday aboard a small boat.

At least a kilometer of the national highway at Barangay Banaoang in Sta. Barbara town was submerged because of overflowing water from the Sinocalan River.

A breached dike in Barangay Cabitnongan in San Nicolas town, along the Ambayoan River, swamped schools in Barangays Lungao, Salingcob and Calaocan. The river, which originates from the Caraballo mountains, connects to the Agno River, which comes from the Cordillera mountains.

Floods in San Nicolas were reported to be about a meter deep.

San Nicolas Mayor Leoncio Saldivar III said at least 325 people in four villages traversed by the Ambayoan River had to be evacuated because of the flash flood on Saturday. Some 100 people in the town proper were also evacuated.

On Sunday morning, the water started receding and residents began returning to their houses, Saldivar said.

Waist-deep floodwater was also reported in the northern villages of Balungao town on Saturday.

Pangasinan Representative Marlyn Primicias-Agabas said her district, composed of 10 towns, might have been the area hardest hit by Quiel. “There was too much devastation in the district. Practically all of our palay crops were destroyed,” she said.

Agabas said her district was crisscrossed by practically all of the major river systems in the province and yet its residents’ only protection were old earth dikes.

John Celeste, regional director of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA), said water releases from the San Roque Dam on Saturday washed out a small dam along the Agno River.

Waters subside

In Bulacan, floodwaters which inundated the towns of Calumpit, Hagonoy, Pulilan and Baliuag, as well as parts of Malolos City, subsided by as much as a meter when the sun rose on Sunday.

These areas experienced floodwaters as high as 3.35 meters (11 feet) on Thursday and Friday as Pedring was dumping heavy rains on its way to the West Philippine Sea.

The provincial board declared a state of calamity on Friday after agricultural and infrastructure damage was placed at P1 billion.

Reading stations on several sections of the river showed that Pampanga’s water level had breached critical levels.

For instance, the Candaba station registered 7.01 m at 5 a.m. and 6.95 m by noon on Sunday. The station’s critical level is set at 5.

“The increase [in water levels] will be felt more downstream,” Hernando said. That is where many of the coastal towns are located.

Bulacan Governor Wilhelmino Sy-Alvarado blamed the water released by National Power Corp. and the NIA from the Angat, Ipo and Bustos dams at the height of Pedring on September 27 for the widespread flooding in his province.

Authorities report that 15 of the 23 recorded deaths in Central Luzon were residents of Bulacan. Nine were children who died from drowning or electrocution.

Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman went to Bulacan on Saturday to inspect the impact of the floods and coordinate with local officials on relief operations.

Stores closed

A text message from a resident of Hagonoy said food and grocery outlets in the town were closed. “There is no available [bottled] mineral water to buy,” the resident said.

“We were only able to supply half of the evacuated families with relief goods, but we prioritized areas which rescue teams could not reach because the flood waters are still too high,” said Norma Luarca, an employee of the Bulacan administrator’s office who mans the provincial disaster command center.

Mary Jane Eleogo, of Barangay San Jose in Calumpit, said she spent P800 to hire a boat and a helper on Saturday so she could rescue her mother and 30 other family members who had been staying on their rooftops.

Bulacan officials said some 62,000 residents had been evacuated.

As of Sunday, at least 121,672 people, mostly in Bulacan, remained in evacuation centers throughout Central Luzon, an OCD report said.

About 2,000 soldiers continued to evacuate residents in flood-hit areas in Bulacan and Pampanga or to deliver food and water to them on Sunday, said Major General Jessie Dellosa, commander of the military’s Northern Luzon Command.

Rubber boats

Dellosa said some 40 rubbers boats, military trucks and helicopters were involved in the rescue and relief operations. Air dropping of food and bottled water resumed on Sunday.

Pampanga Governor Lilia Pineda set up centers in towns along the Pampanga River on Saturday to help flood-affected residents.

Almost 700 policemen have been fielded to assist in rescue and relief missions, said Chief Superintendent Edgardo Ladao, police regional director.

In Tarlac, some 40 villages in Camiling were flooded on Saturday when the Camiling River overflowed due to heavy rains and water flowing from upland areas.

Water on Saturday reached between 1.21 and 1.52 m (between 4 and 5 feet) had receded on Sunday, allowing vehicles to pass through roads in the town.

Only 10 villages in Camiling’s western section remained under water on Sunday.

Several villages in the towns of La Paz, Paniqui and Concepcion were also flooded, said Tarlac Governor Victor Yap.

The OCD said residents of Barangays Villapaz in Gerona and Talimundok Marimla in Concepcion put sandbags in eroded portions of rivers and dikes.

In Nueva Ecija, residents woke up to clear skies on Sunday but those in low-lying areas, especially people living along the Pampanga River, were alerted about a possible rise in water level after heavy rains the day before.

Pantabangan Dam’s water level rose by 2 m on Sunday and was recorded at 208.52 m above sea level, still below the 221 masl spilling level.

Farmers took advantage of the good weather and started harvesting palay spared by Pedring and Quiel. Reports from Kristine Alave and Jerome Aning in Manila; Gabriel Cardinoza and Yolanda Sotelo, Inquirer Northern Luzon; Jo Martinez-Clemente, Anselmo Roque and Armand Galang, Inquirer Central Luzon; and AP

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TAGS: Bulacan, Central Luzon, Disasters, environment, floods, Pampanga, Pedring, Quiel
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