MANILA, Philippines, October 9, 2009 (ENS) – A week of torrential rain on the Philippines main island of Luzon brought by ‘super typhoon’ Parma has claimed more than 100 lives and forced thousands of people from their homes, officials said today. More floodwaters were released today by dams and broken dikes. The San Roque dam released water along the Agno River last night, drowning 30 towns in the coastal province of Pangasinan.
As the typhoon, known locally as Pepeng, has lingered over northern and central Luzon Island since last Saturday, dozens of people have been drowned and buried under landslides, while widespread flooding has occurred in Pangasinan as the River Agno overtopped its banks and destroyed many dikes, the National Disaster Coordinating Council reports.
From 60 to 80 percent of Pangasinan province is flooded and 30,000 people have been evacuated, said officials at the NDCC. Authorities have evacuated people in mountainous and low-lying areas, and whole villages have been flooded to a depth of three feet, NDCC officials confirm.
In total, at least 1,035,325 people have been affected by the storm. Originally classed as a ‘super typhoon,’ it has now weakened to a tropical depression but is still dumping rain on the island nation.
In its latest report, the Philippine National Red Cross Pangasinan-Dagupan City Chapter counted 317,000 families that were affected, more than 1.8 million individuals.
President Gloria Arroyo today mobilized all government agencies to prevent the further loss of life and mitigate the effects of the typhoon.
In a media briefing this afternoon in Malacanang, Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said the President issued the directive to Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro, chairman of the National Disaster Coordinating Council, and the regional and local councils.
Remonde said the government policy is zero casualty and village officials whose jurisdiction lies in the path of Typhoon Pepeng have been advised to map out evacuation plans for their constituents.
U.S. armed forces stationed in the country were conducting relief operations after Typhoon Ketsana, known locally as Ondoy, which struck September 26, drowning 80 percent of the capital city, Manila and killing at least 337 people.
About an hour from Manila, residents of Santa Rosa in Bulacan province were hit hard by Typhoon Ketsana, as they live next to a river that flooded. (Photo by Debbie DeVoe courtesy Catholic Relief Services)
As the latest typhoon made life miserable for survivors, NDCC asked the U.S. Embassy to have American armed forces redeployed to northern Luzon for humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations.
Remonde said the United States has sent a naval vessel, which is now anchored in Lingayen with at least two Chinook helicopters.
Power is slowly being restored to the stricken areas, but dozens of roads have been rendered impassable due to landslides, mudslides and floodwaters.
The San Roque Dam in Pangasinan has opened six gates and floodwaters in the province are projected to rise even higher as the dam increases the volume of water being released.
Due to the release of the water in San Roque Dam, many municipalities in the region are in critical condition. Three dikes have collapsed in the areas of Bacnono, Sison and near the Agno River and a total of 10 dikes are reported damaged.
Press Secretary Remonde said the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration and Department of Science and Technology are closely monitoring three other dams as well as the San Roque Dam.
“If water is to be released, the spillway will be lowered just enough to ease the pressure on the dam – the interests of the communities downstream will be taken into full consideration. Any decision on the matter will be announced well in advance to the elected officials so they can prepare constituents and get them out of harm’s way,” Remonde said.
“Red Cross staff and volunteers were alerted 24/7 for rescue operation and pre-emptive evacuation. We are on continuous monitoring on the status of the affected areas,” said Philippine National Red Cross Chairman Senator Richard Gordon.
U.S. Navy helicopter conducts humanitarian relief for residents of the flooded island of Luzon. October 8, 2009. (Photo by Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joshua J. Wahl courtesy U.S. Navy)
In some areas, the only way to save stranded families in their roof is through air rescue since water current is very strong, says Gordon. The U.S. Agency for International Development and Armed Forces of the Philippines are on standby to send their helicopter carriers for rescue.
“The most effective and safest way to rescue these families who were stranded in their houses is through air rescue. We already asked helicopter carrier assistance from USAID and AFP for the rescue,” said Gordon.
The Philippine National Red Cross and the Habitat for Humanity are working together to address the need for more sanitation facilities in the evacuation centers. At least 120 toilets will built in 10 evacuation centers under a cooperation arrangement between the two organizations.
Typhoon Parma had a devastating impact on the agriculture sector in Isabela Province, the main producer of corn and second producer of rice in the country, according to the Department of Agriculture.
Meanwhile, another big storm was spinning in the western Pacific, near Japan. On Sunday, Typhoon Melor was classed as another ‘super typhoon,’ reaching its peak intensity on October 4 when its sustained winds were estimated at 167 mph by the U.S. Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center.
But Typhoon Melor was a weakening Category 2 typhoon on the morning of October 7 and came ashore over Japan early Thursday as a weak Category 1 typhoon.
Five people lost their lives and an estimated 100 others were injured as Melor made landfall near the city of Nagoya, packing winds of 86 miles per hour and stranding millions of rail and road commuters and airline passengers.