Flash floods and the lessons they bring
Surviving the flood
Before reading this hub, please watch the slideshow on the "Walk Against the Construction of the Laiban Dam" in Quezon Province. The protest walk is an effort to protect the Sierra Madre Mountain from further degradation. A deforested Sierra Madre means more flash flood for Metro Manila like what just happened. Since the hyperlink here doesn;t work, please just do a quick search using google or other browsers. Here's the website:
On September 26, 2009, I was rushing to take the evening trip from Legazpi to Manila. The trip was my most needed visit to my mother and sisters. It was Typhoon Signal Number 1 hours before I boarded the bus. Signal number 1 was not risky for travel as far as my experiences in the past were concerned. Legazpi in the Bicol Region of the Philippines is a typhoon belt so what is signal number 1 anyway.
I arrived in Manila at 5:00 in the morning. It was raining but it was an ordinary rain. No big deal, I thought. I was in a hurry to be at the office for that day, Saturday, was an important activity of a people’s organization our agency was assisting. But as soon as I came into the office, my colleagues who stayed overnight to prepare for Saturday, got a call from the urban poor dwellers near the river that floodwaters were rising. In short, the activity on that day was postponed.
Six hours of rain and a flash flood made Metro Manila look like Noah’s story. On television we could see reports of stranded passengers on flooded streets too risky to cross. The streets became big flooded parking areas. Stories of urban poor dwellers living under the bridge celebrated the generosity of drivers who allowed the people taking refuge on the sidewalks to stay in their buses that were stranded on the highway.
There were areas in Metro Manila that TV could not reach. With no more telephone or mobile phone connections with people, anxieties started to creep in. An example of a message that sent cold water to my spine was the message that said: “We left our house with only our clothes on. The floodwaters were rising faster than we could seek higher grounds. But finally we were able to save ourselves.” Another message said: “The floodwater which just reached our ankles was rising and we decided to leave our house and seek refuge in a high school downtown.” At 3:00 pm, no more messages were coming into my mobile phone.
I thought about our partner urban poor communities and their daily pain and suffering as I frantically called every agency who had something to do with rescuing people during disasters. The coast guard – at least the voice at the other end of the line was courteous and ready to assist. “Our rescue operation is in full blast”, the voice said. “Do you have an idea about the people of Montalban? Have they evacuated?” “Sorry Ma’am”, we couldn’t contact Montalban. “My God, I was not just worried about our partner communities. I was also worried about my brother’s family in a lower middle class subdivision in Montalban. I called the Department of Social Welfare and Development. I called the National Disaster Coordinating Council. I dialed and dialed and dialed and got replies that were not sure if the people I was asking about have been brought to safety. Assuming that people have been brought to safe grounds, have people eaten? They were cold, hungry and scared.
On Sunday Morning, September 27, I got some relieving news aside from the scary ones. My colleagues and friends survived the flood but lost everything. Just like my brother and his family. All they had were the clothes on their back. Metro Manila became a huge muddy area in the aftermath of the flood. But hope was not lost. People were thankful for being alive.
This lesson is a cliché but it is a timeless truth: The best and the worst in people come out during disasters. Young men and women went in droves to do volunteer work in relief centers. There were so many stories of young people doing rescue work There were even those who lost their lives after saving a lot of people in their respective communities.
Disasters remind us that permanence is an illusion. Only the goodness of the human heart lives on. And of course, evil too, from the same human heart.
Here'a a link from Yahoo on the aftermath of Typhoon Ondoy: