Bridge cut off, 15 dead; ‘Worst flooding in 30 years’
At dawn, muddy water swept through Ronda town, south Cebu, killing at least 12 people in the worst flooding seen there in 30 years, triggered by torrential rains of typhoon Seniang.
“Nagsyagit ang mg bata…nangayo ug tabang… pero ngitngit kayo…kusog ang tubig. Wa miy nabuhat (The children were shouting for help. But it was too dark and the water current was strong. We couldn’t do anything),”said 56-year-old Magdalena Batomalaque.
Pausing in between sobs, the grandmother recalled how she and her family were overwhelmed by floodwater that reached chest deep and wiped out their house in barangay Liboo.
She lost her husband, mother and two grandchildren.
Across Cebu province, 15 deaths were reported by officials, mostly in south Cebu with Ronda town registering the most casualties.
Flooding and landslides were reported in Balamban town, where part of the Transcentral Highway near the Adventure Cafe caved in. Toledo City and six other towns also struggled with flashfloods.
Two landslides were reported in the mountain barangay of Sinsin, Cebu City.
All storm warning signals in Cebu were lifted at 5 p.m. yesterday.
Seniang is forecast to be 110 kilometers west of Puerto Princesa in Palawan this afternoon, after dumping intense rain in south Cebu.
BRIDGE CUT OFF
Cebu’s biggest infrastructure damage may be in Sibonga town, where the approach of the Dumlog Bridge in barangay Simala was washed out.
The bridge remains impassable. A large gaping hole exists between the edge of the concrete national bridge, and the other side of the road.
The force of water overflowing from the Simala river scoured the sides of the river bank, eroding soil supporting the bridge approach and causing its collapse.
The broken link cuts off travel from south Cebu. Commuters were forced to to take a tricycle or motorcycle-for-hire through a barangay road as a longer, alternate route to get to the other side.
Batomalaque lost her husband, mother and two grandchildren.
“Dili man kusog ang hangin pero kusog ang uwan,” Batomalaque told Cebu Daily News. (The wind wasn’t strong, but the rain was.)
The downpour occurred from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m.
She said she heard a loud sound like an explosion. Then came the raging floodwater.
They tried to stay together, clinging to anything afloat but the water rose too fast and the current was strong.
Batomalaque said she got swept away twice when she tried to hang on bamboo branches. She was saved by her hold on to a coconut tree.
She lost her 58-year-old husband Bienvenido, her 89-year-old mother Prudencia Tampos and grandchildren, Rancess, 5, and Aaron, 7.
The children’s mother Lani Camelo, 27, survived.
She said little Rancess was still alive when the girl was found in a culvert in the boundary of Alcantara and Ronda towns. But she was vomiting mud.
Rescuers tried to bring the girl to the hospital. The police car they were riding couldn’t pass the bridge in Alcantara, which was damaged.
Rancess died along the way.
“Wa mi magdahom na mahitabo ni. Dugay na mi nagpuyo didto and wa mi kasuway ing ato ka-grabe na baha (We didn’t expect this to happen. We’ve been living there for years and we never experienced this bad a flood),” said Batomalaque, the grandmother.
Their house of mixed light and concrete materials sat a few meters from the Talaba river.
WATER’S OWN PATH
Ronda Mayor Mariano Blanco III said barangays Tupas and Liboo were the worst hit of the town’s 14 barangays.
Blanco said the water that flooded the town came from barangay Tupas which is situated in between valleys.
Floodwater was chest deep.
“The water didn’t go to the river. It flowed into the roads. Wa mikasabot kay murag naghimo syag iyang agianan,” said Blanco, who described it as the worst flooding seen in Ronda in 30 years.
(We don’t understand. It’s as if the water was finding it’s own path.)
Forced evacuations were ordered on Monday afternoon. However, some residents refused to leave their homes.
“Gitapol na siguro ug evacuate kay in the previous storms, wa may nahitabo,” Blanco said.
(Maybe they were not interested to evacuate because in the previous storms, nothing bad had happened.)
Rescue efforts were launched but the water was already too high.
For the victims, the town will provide burial aid. The province promised to donate 20 sacks of rice.“We will assess what other assistance we could give,” said Blanco.
There were initial reports of major livestock and farm damage.
In barangay Tupas, spouses Evelyn and Junaldo Bahenting were killed along with their children Joan, 8, Juvelyn, 10, and Jean.
A 2-year-old daughter Joyce remains missing.
Anabelle Yap, 60, and 17-year-old Paul Emerson Lim died in barangay Poblacion.
Yap was one of those rescued at the height of the flooding, said the mayor.
When the truck carrying rescued residents tilted, Yap panicked and got off. She was swept away by the strong current. A certain Pew-pew died in barangay Ilaya.
Two residents from barangay Tupas identified as Leoning Caday, 50, and Ace Faunillan, a one-month-old baby, remain missing, according to Insp. Reuben Renes, chief of the Ronda Police Station.
At least 12 houses were swept away in barangay Bagacay, said barangay captain Alfredo Bacacao Jr.
At least 10 families were rescued.
There would have been more deaths if the flooding occurred during high tide, said councilwoman Anabelle Hambelton.
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