As “Ulysses” dumped heavy rain over Metro Manila early morning Thursday, floodwaters submerged parts of Marikina City, sending many residents to evacuate while others moved up to the roofs of their houses — with social media recording the pleas for rescue.
One of them, Red Naval, in a Facebook post, sought help for his friend’s family who was stranded on the roof of their house on Amsterdam Street, Provident Village, Marikina City.
Naval said that his friend’s family has been stuck on the roof for about five hours. Another netizen, Jhomz Flores, posted that his mother needed to be rescued from her house on Libis St., in Barangay Concepcion, also in Marikina.
Senior citizens were also rescued from Provident Village following an appeal posted by Ryan Rene Alvarez.
Marikina Mayor Marcelino Teodoro said that about 6,000 families in the city had been evacuated as of Thursday morning.
In an interview over ANC, Teodoro called on the national government and the private sector for assistance in the rescue operations in the city.
“Our focus right now really is rescue operation. We would like to rescue as many residents who are stranded as early as last night,” he said.
Marikina River’s water level peaked at 22 meters at 10:33 a.m. Thursday, according to the Marikina Public Information Office, almost reaching the 23- meters during tropical storm “Ondoy” in 2009.
As of 12 noon, the water level of the river went down to 21.8 meters as weather condition over Metro Manila started to improve.
Memories of ‘Ondoy’
The non-stop heavy rainfall and the scenes of people on the roofs stoked memories of tropical storm “Ondoy” in 2009.
That was a very traumatic time for many Marikina residents when the Marikina River water level reached 21.6 meters above sea level, submerging most parts of the city in murky flood waters.
“The water level here in Marikina has reached 21.6 meters,” Teodoro said in an interview over ANC.
“It has gone beyond even the water level when we experienced Ondoy in the city.”
According to Teodoro, the local government had projected that the river water level would only reach about 18 meters.
“That’s the reason many of our residents, particularly those residing in areas which are not historically being flooded, are stranded at this point in time,” he said.
In 2009, Ondoy poured over a month’s volume of water and submerged almost the entire Marikina in just a span of several hours, affecting all of the city’s 16 barangays.
Residents woke up to rushing flood waters and thick mud as heavy rains continuously poured over the city and nearby areas.
Due to its geographical location, Marikina is the catch basin for flood waters coming from the mountains of Rizal.
“It’s scary because our experience here is similar to Ondoy, because during Ondoy, it happened just like this. While everyone was sleeping, the river water level suddenly rose,” Teodoro said over radio DZBB.
Evacuation of residents
The local government started evacuating residents near the river and lowlying areas past midnight Thursday, as the water level of the city’s main waterway reached 18 meters, automatically triggering third alarm at 3:18 a.m. and prompting the forced evacuation of residents.
Even the City Hall, Teodoro said, was not spared by flood as its first level was submerged in knee-deep floodwaters.
Major thoroughfares in the city, including a portion of Sumulong Highway located in the city’s center, were also submerged in knee-deep flood waters.
Exhausted manpower and resources
Teodoro said the local government has exhausted all of its manpower and resources for the rescue of affected residents, and has employed the assistance of the Philippine National Police and the Bureau of Fire Protection.
“Our focus right now really is rescue operation. We would like to rescue as many residents who are stranded as early as last night,” the mayor said.
“We call on the national government, particularly the Coast Guard, if they could send help to Marikina at this point in order to help many of our residents,” he added.
The mayor called on the private sector for assistance in the rescue operations in the city.
Health and safety concerns
The local government aired concerns over the health and safety of the public amid the ongoing threat of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, as residents flocked to evacuations centers in the city following the steady rise of the water level.
According to Teodoro, about 5,000 to 6,000 families sought shelter at evacuation centers in Marikina, aside from those who evacuated to churches and other safe places.
“I think the enormity is similar to that of Ondoy,” he said.
The mayor narrated that people flocked to evacuation centers after the third alarm was raised, causing physical distancing not to be followed.
Social media as hotline
Social media buzzed with numerous photos and pleas for help, making it the emergency hotline for the moment.
These included viral photos of residents of Rizal province, who found refuge on the roof of their houses after their village got completely submerged by the flood.
Some of them were seen with infants. From Montalban, social media posts also kept netizens — and government agencies — updated on the situation in other places.
“Parang awa niyo na po sana may makapansin nito. Kailangan po ng rescue ng pamilya ko sa Montalban, Rizal (I’m begging and hoping that someone would notice this. My family in Montalban needs to be rescued),” Rowena Bragas said in a Facebook post around 6 a.m.
“This is urgent!!! Second floor na po ang baha at malakas pa rin ang ulan at hangin (The flood already reached our second floor and the strong winds and heavy rains continue).”
Arnel Arevalo, another social media user, added: “Help please! If you know anyone from Montalban, Rizal, LGU please let them know that there are still a lot of residents here in Celina Homes 4 who are trapped in their 2nd floor. No sign of rescuers/responder yet. Signal is bad, too. Power is out.”
“Sa mga nakakabasa po, patulong. Kailangan po namin ng rescue, marami pong baby po dito nasa taas na po kami ng bahay, kasama mga kapitbahay po namin. Malapit na po kami abutin, mga 20+ po kami, 10 bata po kasama 5 baby (To anyone who can read this, please help us. We need a rescue team. We have babies with us. We are already on top of our house, with our neighbors. We have 10 children, including five babies, in tow),” Micca Lorreine De Jesus of Montalban town said.
The term #RescuePH became trending on Twitter as people seeking assistance used the hashtag to gather information on those needing to be rescued.
Local government units, including Valenzuela City, used social media to monitor the situation of their constituents, especially those in need of rescue teams.
They also resorted to online posting to keep their constituents informed.
Earlier, the LGUs of Navotas and Pasay Cities posted photos and updates of the two vessels that ran aground and damaged structures in their areas.