By Jennifer Hardy, CRS Regional Information Officer for Asia
When people living along the river went to sleep in Cagayan de Oro on Friday night, they didn’t know that a wall of water was barreling toward their homes. By 11 pm, communities in this part of the island of Mindanao in the southern Philippines were mostly quiet. Radios were silenced for the night. Residents didn’t hear the emergency warnings broadcast by the government shortly before water crashed into homes on the riverbank. Survivors made it out of the water with their lives, but few possessions. Others perished before they could even leave their homes.
Joe Curry, Catholic Relief Services’ country representative for the Philippines, arrived at the flood zone and met people who had lost everything. “Some people don’t even have shoes – their sandals were pulled off their feet in the flood,” he says.
The topography of Cagayan de Oro was ripe for disastrous flooding. A river flows down a mountain, through a ravine, into the city and out to the ocean. But there had been storms before that didn’t cause such widespread death and destruction. Tropical Storm Washi (known locally as Sendong) took an unusual path that brought torrential rain to the mountains around Cagayan de Oro. City residents didn’t have a precedent for the flash floods that followed. More than 50,000 people are now living in emergency evacuation centers.