THE tragedy that happened in Davao City on the eve of Christmas was freak. Earlier alarm was raised of Tropical Storm Vinta that placed the city along its path. City Mayor Inday Sara Duterte promptly issued advisories alerting those in the coastline, river banks and areas that had been hit by flash floods before to be on the lookout and evacuate.
When Vinta hit land and was ravaging Davao, Surigao, Agusan, Compostela Valley provinces winds in Davao City was gentle while sunlight was up early. I thought of postponing the traditional Christmas party I tendered to the staff of the Mindanao Journal along with some intimate media friends but because the weather was surprisingly well, we decided to continue with it. Besides, my in-laws and my daughter Kristine and three granddaughters had arrived for our Christmas reunion.
My two sons, Dante and Ferdinand who reside in Gem Village in Ma-a, were with us in the party. At around 7:00 p.m., a neighbor texted him that flood water had already crept close to the village. Dante’s friend also called offering his van to ferry his precious belongings to safer ground. They left the party quickly and hurried to Ma-a. By the time they got there, water was knee deep. They loaded whatever they can on the van and left as quickly as they got there.
My residence is located on higher ground. From where we were, incessant sirens from 911 rescue trucks and ambulances could be heard. I called up 911 to ask what was going on. The answer was prompt. “Sir rampaging floods had engulfed Jade Valley and rescue operations are ongoing. Gem Village is also being evacuated now and barangay officials had been going around to advise residents to immediately evacuate”.
I was stunned. My sons are there. I reached for my phone to call them. “Dito na kami sa harap ng bahay niyo pa,” Ferdinand answered.
We went on with Christmas dinner and exchanged gifts and decided it was time to go home early. As i see my friends off, there was a very slight drizzle. Later, Allan Abais of DXAB texted Bongo Go is in the disaster area in Jade Valley rescuing stranded residents trapped by flood. Secretary Bong is an ace jet skier and had always been involved in rescue operations.
My sons drove to Gem Village in Maa by day break only to come back immediately. The entire village is totally flooded and people are barred from venturing into the area except for rescue teams.
The sun was up. Club Samal, a seaside resort in the Island Garden City of Samal called up the gulf water is calm and the coast guard had already given clearance that the ferry can already navigate the narrow channel between the island and Davao City. We had given up on the fate of my sons residence in Gem Village, so off we go to Club Samal a brand new island resort and hotel owned by friend and Chairman of Davao City Water District, Ed Bangayan.
As we were driving towards the port area news reports about the flood had grabbed the top stories. But later a report came in about NCCC Mall catching fire. Knowing how big and wide is the building I cannot comprehend why people in the 4th floor can be trapped. In fact radio coverages were centered for a long time on the flooded villages where rescue operations had been going on since early evening of the 23rd. It is therefore shocking to hear that not a few people perished.
President Duterte who was out in Biliran and elsewhere in many places in Mindanao rushed home to see the extent of the devastation wrought by floods and fire.
It’s simply incredulous but I am staring at stark realities. For who could ever believe these twin disasters happened. It was comparatively fair weather in Davao City. The heat of the sun was scorching. And how can a building like NCCC mall be a tinder trap?
What a freak. It is Christmas and it could be a cause of celebration because the city was spared from the gale and heavy rains that devastated other provinces and cities along its path which included Davao City. We were unaware heavy rain that fell in the mountains including those from the neighboring provinces cascaded into the tributaries of Tamugan and Davao River sending rampaging waters downstream.
And what about NCCC mall fire? I do not have an answer. All I can say for now is that a serious probe must be undertaken.
What a truly sad episode to write this season of Christmas. I want to write an inspiring quote from Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy but only as much as I can recall: “God never gave us a cross heavier than what we can carry. He wants us to be happy, not sad. Birds sing after the storm, why shouldn’t we?”
My heart reaches out to the victims of flood and fire. My sons lost their computers and some important belongings to flood. But these are material things which can be replaced sooner or maybe later. But for those who perished in the blazing inferno and flood no words can comfort them at this time.
I hope God’s compassion and loving mercy this Christmas day be with those who lost their love ones.