CEBU CITY -- Tornado hit Argao and Santander got flooded after hours of heavy rains and strong winds Wednesday night.
In northern Cebu a day earlier, a tornado also reportedly struck a sitio in Bantayan town, knocking down 19 houses. An eight-year-old boy was reported injured but was later found to have only hurt his hand.
Tornados and thunderstorms usually occur in April and October when there are series of low pressure areas, weather specialist May Casaligan said Thursday.
She explained that these weather disturbances happen when cumulu-nimbus clouds are formed. These clouds are filled with electrical charges which, when released, create tornados or thunderstorms.
Residents of Barangay Talaga, Argao in southern Cebu said they never saw anything like it before, as neighbors got lifted off the ground and vehicles and houses flew.
Jose de la Pena, a barangay tanod of Talaga, said he was on night watch duty when he heard a strong whistling sound coming from the sea.
"It came towards one side of the house and I saw the roof being torn apart. Then the next thing I knew I was above ground, like I was flying. I was waving my hands. I held on tight to the nearest cement post of the house," he told Sun.Star Cebu Thursday.
"(As I held onto the post) I saw the vehicles parked nearby being moved by the strong winds, there were sparks coming from the electric post. I saw the tip of the tornado when I looked down on the floor of the house. It was lit, it looked like there was fire inside it," he added.
Dela Pena said the occurrence lasted only about two minutes but it felt that it lasted longer. He prayed that he would not be swept away by the strong winds that turned in the form of a funnel towards the electric post.
"I will never forget this cement post," he said while holding on to it.
The tornado that hit Talaga lasted three minutes and left some P500,000 worth of damage to property and P100,000 damage to agricultural crops, town authorities said.
Danilo Jumao-as, Argao municipal consultant, told reporters that two houses were destroyed, 12 damaged and the Talaga Bogo Rural Water and Sanitation Association (Tabruwasa) office damaged.
Fourteen families or a total of 50 people were affected and a woman, Elizabeth Alonzo, was injured.
In an interview, Alonzo said it was the divine providence that helped her survive her ordeal.
She was the last to go out of their nipa hut that was located near the shore.
"When I stepped out of the house, the water was already chest deep. I had to swim as fast as I could because I could see the house lilting towards me," she said.
Alonzo had cuts in her mouth, arms and legs after she hit herself on the wall of the house.
Talaga Barangay Captain Florentino Ortega said his brick house was spared from damage by a mini truck that was carried by the strong winds.
But he noted the peculiar damage on religious statues.
An image of the Virgin of Fatima was carried by the winds from an outdoor altar to the truck. The statue was broken yet the face of the Virgin was intact.
A Sto. Nino image also remained intact despite its glass case being smashed by the winds.
"With incidents like this we can say that we were protected from harm by God," Ortega said.
In Santander, some 60 kilometers away from Argao, the townsfolk have developed fear of strong rains and winds that come at night.
Pasil barangay captain Bonifacia Linejohn said the residents may have been traumatized by the floods that hit the town in February 2009.
"What we are asking for now is more culverts to improve the drainage system here," she said.
"The existing culverts get clogged right away by soil, rocks and palm leaves. We only have one wide culvert (along the highway) while the others are too small for the floodwaters to pass through," she said.
Linejohn reported at least 21 houses damaged by the floods and that most of the work yesterday were clearing operations.
Along the national highway, the roads in southern Cebu were being cleared of boulders and mud by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
Santander Mayor Wilson Wenceslao said floods in Barangays Looc, Poblacion and Pasil damaged some 50 houses.
"There was no major damage that I saw when I visited the affected barangays on Wednesday evening. It did not take long for the floodwaters to subside," he told Sun.Star Cebu.
Governor Gwendolyn Garcia sent out the social welfare department staff to provide the affected families with relief goods.
She said Capitol will help the families rebuild their houses.
Cebu Provincial Police Office Director Erson Digal, who checked out the affected areas in Argao and Santander, was thankful that no one died in the disaster.
Police and the military assisted Santander in the clearing. (Bernadette A. Parco/With Jovy T. Gerodias/Rebelander S. Basilan/Ricardo R. Flores Jr. of Sun.Star Cebu)