Haunting images of a rescue operation-A A +A
Bahin sang Bubay
Friday, February 22, 2013
FLASHFLOODS are becoming the “daily bread” of Dabawenyos. In the wake of super typhoon “Pablo” in Davao regions, our beautiful Davao is no longer a peaceful haven like the movie “Shangri-La” – where the air you breathe is soft and clean...
Davao can no longer boast of a “typhoon-free” summer capital, because of the endless LPA or low pressure area warnings that has constantly put all of us on a defensive, wondering what has happened to the once ‘calamity-spared’ tourist destination.
Just recently, a couple of friends and I drove to one of the worst hit areas in the city to respond to a distress call from a friend whose house was literally underwater. Our friend’s house is located just a few meters away from Davao River, the largest body of water that connects the big rivers in Mindanao, and where several housing units are conspicuously constructed.
Elsa, our friend and her family had evacuated to the next house that has a second level where they and several other neighbors were invited in by the family since early dawn that day. They had stayed there for over 12 hours already, unable to do anything but helplessly watching the strong current that prevented them from going out of their abode to seek help.
A few meters across the murky, swirling waters stood people, all drenched but still wanting to go to their houses that they left when it flooded, along with some rescue workers who seemed perplexed as to the next move they needed to take. Wondering at the young rescue workers who were sitting along the sides of the road looking tired and weary, I asked where they were heading. He replied that they were just waiting for their vehicle that would take them to another flooded area, though they had gone around the city already, responding to calls for assistance.
Some of them said they could no longer go out to rescue some of the residents who were still up on the roof of their houses as the current was very strong and they could not maneuver with their rubber boats. I could see that some of their inflatables were flattened, could have been punctured by objects in the murky waters.
As we watched the beehive of activity on that spot, we noticed some quirks that mark us Filipinos in times of disaster. These include the fact that we are so very ill-prepared, time and again. We act as if every flooding is the first experience, and so when it happens, we find ourselves empty handed, unable to cope, losing so much of whatever we have to the floods.
Another is the way that we do not seem to realize how important cooperation is, such as instead of keeping off the road and clearing the way for rescuers’ vehicles to pass through, we go and put ourselves in the middle, nang-uusyuso, and in effect clogging the road network that is very crucial for authorities to bring the victims to safety. As a result, rescue operations tend to be slow and ineffective, and usyuseros NEVER realize that it’s partly because of them.
It is because we want to see first-hand, up front, clearly what is happening or what is going to happen, not really thinking that we could be hampering rescue efforts.
Then, another is the way we are not trained to positively approach disasters. Local government units have been given a sizable budget for Disaster Risk Reduction management, for the sole purpose of preparing the citizenry for any calamity. May I ask where have all these funds gone? Has it gone to pockets of every politician and everyone?
And again, WHEN will we ever learn?
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on February 23, 2013.