THE northern town of Carmen, Cebu will strictly prohibit the construction of houses along riverbanks, after confirming that most of the residents affected by the flood last weekend lived near waterways.
The Municipal Council declared the town under a state of calamity during a special session yesterday to provide assistance to families of the eight fatalities and 310 others, who were affected by the calamity.
Before the special session, Mayor Martin Gerard Villamor met council members to discuss what happened last Sunday.
“Eight lives were lost because of four hours of rain,” Villamor said.
Twelve barangays in Carmen were affected flooded, while some villages experienced landslides.
The mayor said the town did not receive an advisory that the low-pressure area (LPA), which was categorized as a tropical depression before it made landfall in Samar, would bring heavy rains and flooding.
Villamor said they usually receive advisories from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) Council and the Provincial DRRM office.
The flooding and landslides affected 670 persons in the town. Most of them live near or in the no-build zone.
State of calamity
“Hopefully, we will strictly implement the no-build zone,” Villamor said. “In the future planning sa atong CLUP, ang agianan sa tubig di nato i-block (of the town's Comprehensive Land Use Plan, we will indicate that no structures shall block waterways).”
Villamor said he doesn't want a repeat of last Sunday's incident.
According to his estimates, 500 houses and shanties are built near the town's rivers, creeks and traditional waterways.
He said they will ask the Province to allow them to use a two-hectare provincial property in Barangay Dawis Sur as a relocation site for families, who will have to leave the no-build zone.
Councilor Antonio Awing said they will monitor structures that will be built, especially those near the rivers, through permits processed in the Municipal Hall, but their problem is with people who put up makeshift huts.
Meanwhile, placing the town under a state of calamity will allow it to use its P6-million calamity fund.
The Municipality will provide P10,000 cash to each affected family and pay for the casket of the victims, Villamor said.
Residents with damaged houses in Barangays Ipil, Poblacion, Puente, Cogon East, Cogon West, Luyang, Dawis Norte, Dawis Sur, Triumfo, Cantipay, Cantumog and Baring will also receive assistance.
A landslide occurred in Triumfo, Ipil and Cantipay.
A foot bridge collapsed in Barangays Pagutlan and the one between the boundary of Cagat-Lamac in Danao City and Triumfo. Riprap and flood-control structures were damaged in Poblacion, Cantumog, and Puente.
Engr. Rodger Suico, the town's DRRM officer, said the damage to the flood-control structure in the Puente-Luyang River is worth P5 million.
As of Sunday night, the Local Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office instructed 670 individuals to stay in designated evacuation centers and the town's crisis center.
Suico said that as of 10 a.m. Monday, April 17, most of the evacuees returned to their homes to salvage what was left of their belongings.
He said they did not initiate a preemptive evacuation after tropical depression Crising was downgraded into a LPA.
“We have procedures that once storm signal number one is raised, we will execute evacuation. We did not expect the LPA to cause such damage,” Suico said.
The flood, which was chest-deep past 3 a.m. in some areas last Sunday, killed livestock and nine persons in Carmen and Danao City, most of them asleep.
Suico said the eight casualties from Carmen were living 20 meters from the river that overflowed, sweeping several structures.
Call for collaboration
Barangays Hagnaya, Triemfu and Ipil are still not passable, but clearing operations are ongoing, he said.
Power is back in all the town's 21 barangays.
The Province on Monday distributed 10 large tents that could accommodate at least five families, who are still staying in the crisis center.
The Province has already distributed bags of rice, canned goods and burial assistance to families of the casualties.
Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale said that the tragedy should serve as a “lesson” not only to the townsfolk, but to everyone.
“How do you predict a cyclone? There's no harm in initiating a preemptive evacuation,” she said.
Magpale, a native of Danao City, said it was her first time to experience an “unusual” amount of rain for an LPA, causing rivers to swell.
The heavy rain, which started Saturday night and persisted until Sunday morning, also caused flooding in Cebu City and Talisay City.
Baltazaar Tribunalo of the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office, in an interview with radio dyAB, said that it was the third fatal flooding in Carmen.
While he admitted that information dissemination may be insufficient sometimes, he called for political will and for the public to collaborate with the government in addressing the problem.
“Let's not play the blame game. We must all do our part,” he said.
Tribunalo said the Province will also dredge and re-channel waterways in Carmen to prevent waterways from overflowing again.