With the non-stop rains and strong winds brought about by Typhoon “Ulysses” to Metro Manila and nearby provinces, the decade-old memories of Tropical Strom “Ondoy” has resurfaced as Marikina City is once again tested by another formidable foe, Marikina City Mayor Marcelino "Marcy" Teodoro said on Thursday.
Teodoro, facing numerous calls for help from Marikina residents stranded on top of the roof of their homes and neck-deep flood waters, said that "Ulysses" has stoked past memories of what happened during "Ondoy" back in 2009 as Marikina River’s water level reached 21.6 meters, submerging most parts of the city in murky flood waters.
“We have a very challenging morning today. 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 has projected that the river’s water level would only reach about 18 meters, a complete opposite to what transpired on Tuesday morning.
“That’s the reason why many of our residents, particularly those residing in areas which are not normally 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 flood water and mud 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. Dozens of people died during "Ondoy's" onslaught and displaced thousands of city residents.
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’s water level suddenly rose,” Teodoro said over radio DZBB.
The local government has begun evacuating residents near the river and in low-lying areas past midnight on Thursday, as the water level of the city’s main waterway reached 18 meters, automatically triggering a 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 about knee-deep flood waters.
Major thoroughfares in the city, including a portion of Sumulong Highway located in the city’s center, was also submerged under knee-deep flood waters.
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 has also called on the private sector for assistance in the rescue operations in the city.
Thousands of families evacuated
The local government has also 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 evacuations 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. The physical distancing was not followed.
“What we were expecting after the ill-effect of flooding, very enormous ‘yung health concerns na aming kahaharapin (we will be facing a very enormous health concern),” he said.
Metro Manila and several nearby provinces were placed under tropical cyclone warning signal No. 3 as "Ulysses" crossed the Luzon landmass.