Massive rescue operations ongoing in Cagayan, Isabela

CAGAYAN. Chief Petty Officer (CPO) Romyr V. Ballen of Philippine Coast Guard Northeastern Luzon District carries a baby inside a plastic basin as he wades through chest-deep floodwaters in Cagayan province. (PCG)

AUTHORITIES have launched massive rescue operations in Cagayan and Isabela provinces in northern Luzon as typhoon-induced floodwaters continued to rise with the release of more water from the Magat Dam, which has caused the Cagayan River Basin to overflow.

Vice President Leni Robredo, in a Twitter post Saturday morning, November 14, 2020, said she was informed by the Cagayan Police Provincial Office that rescue operations were being conducted since 2 a.m. Saturday.

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), in its Facebook posts, said they have rescued nearly 300 individuals in Tuguegarao City, and in the towns of Claveria and Gattaran in Cagayan as well as in Tumauini, Isabela.

Shortly before noon Saturday, the PCG said it has deployed two helicopters to commence aerial rescue operations.

State weather bureau Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) said seven gates of Magat Dam were opened by 18 meters at 6 a.m. Friday, three gates by five meters at 6 a.m. Saturday and two gates by four meters at 9 a.m. Saturday.

Officials said 24 out of Cagayan province's 28 towns and one city were flooded due to the typhoon. This was worsened by the Magat Dam releasing water.

Tuguegarao Archbishop Ricardo Baccay, in a radio interview Saturday morning, appealed for help.

"While some show increased resilience and determination in the face of difficulty, we encourage those who are capable of extending help to reach out to our needy brothers and sisters," said Baccay over Church-run Radio Veritas.

Caritas Philippines executive secretary Fr. Antonio Labiao said the assistance currently being provided by the Archdiocese of Tuguegarao won't be sufficient to help the people.

"In Cagayan, people, children, elderly, and the vulnerable are crying out for help, while some have died already. The Catholic Church, especially the Archdiocese of Tuguegarao, is mobilizing all its resources to reach Cagayan Valley the soonest. But we cannot do this without everyone’s help," said Labiao.


At around 3:30 a.m. Saturday, the PCG said it deployed the first convoy of augmentation, composed of 10 rescue personnel, one multipurpose vehicle, one truck, and four newly procured rubber boats.

The second convoy, composed of two trucks, left for Cagayan and Isabela at around 9 a.m., after loading 20 drums of fuel for the two Coast Guard helicopters that will be used to conduct aerial extraction.

The deployable response groups (DRGs) are composed of 60 rescue and medical personnel, two buses, one 12-wheeler boom truck, two M-35 trucks, and a total of seven drivers.

They are also equipped with two rubber boats and three generator sets, as well as 44 drums of fuel for the rescue assets and vehicles.

Two DRGs from the PCG Station in Ilocos Norte equipped with rubber boats also left for Tuguegarao City via Pagudpud highway.

In a statement, Malacañang said the Philippine National Police (PNP) has also deployed 747 search and rescue personnel and 1,003 reactionary standby support force to Cagayan Valley as of 6 a.m. Saturday.

The Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has also focused on search, rescue, retrieval and relief operations, sending two Huey helicopters to conduct operations in communities cut off by impassable roads.

The Philippine Air Force (PAF), on its third day of operations in Ilagan City, Isabela, has deployed two water search and rescue teams. The Marine Battalion Landing Team 10 also deployed three teams with two runner boats and three trucks, which are now in Barangay Bacolod, Alcala, Cagayan.

Three water search and rescue teams, each with a rubber boat and four personnel, from the 505 Search and Rescue Group of PAF were also waiting at the Villamor Air Base to be airlifted by a C-130 coming from Mactan Air Base in Cebu.

Two Bell 412 helicopters have also left for Cagayan Valley.

Relief assistance was being provided by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and Department of Health (DOH), Malacañang added.

Pagasa has been issuing flood advisories for the entire Cagayan Valley region since Typhoon Ulysses (Vamco) pounded Luzon with intense rainfall and strong winds on November 11.

The typhoon also caused massive flooding in Marikina City in Metro Manila and three towns in neighboring Rizal province as well as in Bicol region and Quezon province. A total of 138,272 individuals have been rescued as of 8 a.m. Friday, according to the AFP. (Marites Villamor-Ilano with HDT / SunStar Philippines)


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