Debbie DeVoe, CRS Regional Information Officer, sends in a field report from the Philippines.
CRS’ Director of Emergency Operations Pat Johns and I joined Sister Rosanne Mallillin of Caritas Philippines on a visit this morning to assess the widespread damage in Pangasinan province, one of two provinces currently experiencing extensive flooding and landslides. CRS is a Caritas member from the USA.
When we reached the city of Bugallon, three and a half hours northwest of Manila, we encountered a sea of water on both sides of the flooded road. Parish priests told us that people began coming to churches and schools two days earlier, knowing that river and dike levels had already hit dangerous levels—heights that rose further when officials released water from the San Roque Dam to prevent a breach.
Water started flooding the streets yesterday around 5 p.m., rising as high as people’s chests by early morning. In other locations, water levels rose as high as the second floor of a local mall. Rescue missions continue, with CNN reporting that this latest disaster in the Philippines has already killed more than 180 people. When the floodwaters finally recede, the region will face a massive cleanup and rebuilding effort to restore homes, businesses, rice fields and fish ponds.
“It is a major calamity,” Johns says, “and it’s going to take a lot of work to respond to it.”
The families we spoke with expected to stay in their “evacuation centers” for the next three to four days. To help the local churches feed these people, Caritas Philippines delivered over 100 bags of emergency food rations, and the nearby Diocese of Alaminos brought in nine 110-pound bags of rice. Unfortunately the flooding prevented us from continuing further into the province.
Our prayers are with all of those affected by the recent storms in the Philippines, particularly those who have lost a loved one.