By Ben Cal
A survivor of the deadly Tropical Storm “Sendong” that left a wide swath of destruction in large part of Mindanao related to GMA7 on how she and her family barely escaped out of harm’s way at the height of the storm’s fury in Cagayan de Oro Friday night.
Ms. Michaela de Guzman, a resident of Cagayan de Oro which bore the brunt of “Sendong” in a phone patch interview told GMA7 anchor Arnold Clavio that she was already sleeping when she heard neighbors screaming upon seeing the rampaging floodwaters rushing towards them.
Most of the victims were sleeping when rampaging floodwaters swept the city. For many, it was too late when they woke up. Many drowned in their sleep or hit by rolling logs.
Rampant illegal logging and indiscriminate mining which abound in many areas in southern Philippines were blamed as the culprit in the worst flood in living memory.
Another factor was the people were complacent despite the issuance of a storm warning apparently because Cagayan de Oro and Iligan cities are not within the normal path of typhoons in the past.
It was only Tropical Storm “Sendong” that brought them havoc in lives and property.
Houses and other structures made of light materials were washed out to the ground as shown by television footages filmed by a local resident.
De Guzman said it was a horrifying sight to see trucks and cars overturned some along the road and others turned turtle in bushes several meters away from the highway.
“It happened so fast,” de Guzman said in Tagalog.
She said there was no electricity in the city as thousands of residents were groping in darkness as heavy rains continued without let-up that resulted in the overflowing of the river nearby.
De Guzman said fear struck her when floodwaters rose steadily as she was worried about the safety of her parents but especially to her lolo and lola who are already old.
Her presence of mind saved them when she got blankets from the bedroom, tied them together and told her father and mother, her grandparents and her brothers and sister to hold on.
This saved them from being carried by floodwaters which rose to as high as 10 feet.
In Iligan City, thousands of residents suffered the same horrible fate of being battered by floodwaters.
A resident identified as Richelle Ann Medina Adaza said the flood had reached the second floor of houses in the area.
City Councilor Rudy Marzo said more than 300 bodies were recovered by rescue workers from various parts of the city while more than 500 others remain missing.
Logs and upside down trucks littered all over the place as shown by GMA7.
As of 12 noon Monday, there were 632 fatalities, 82 missing, 16 injured and 432 rescued, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).
NDRRMC Undersecretary Benito Ramos said retrieval operation is ongoing and expects the number of dead to rise.
He said rescuers have recovered floating bodies in various places in the area. The latest to be recovered was a child whose hand protruded from mud in Cagayan de Oro.
The most urgent need of the thousands of evacuees living in temporary shelters are food and water, clothing and other basic necessities.
“Sendong”, international code-named “Washi” was the worst typhoon to hit the country this year in terms of the number of fatalities.