Widespread flooding brings fears of dengue in Lando-affected areas
MANILA, Philippines – Typhoon Lando (Koppu) has caused extensive flooding in the north eastern provinces of Luzon, the country’s largest and most populous island. Koppu, the strongest storm to hit Luzon in 5 years, made landfall as a category 3 cyclone over the east coast town of Casiguran in the early hours of Sunday morning, October 18.
The worst hit of the 20 provinces affected are the east coast provinces of Aurora and Isabela, while Cagayan in the north is also under water. As of Monday, about 11,500 people were still taking refuge in evacuation centres. Authorities have reported 26 people dead, while nearly a million are affected.
Local health officials have expressed concern about the spread of mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue, which has reached record levels this year in provinces around Manila.
Meanwhile, the Philippine Red Cross has responded with hot meals for more than 4,100 affected people, while welfare desks provided information to residents who had to leave their homes. Distribution of non-food items from International Federation of Red Cross stock – including tarpaulins, jerry cans, sheets and blankets – has started.
While floodwaters are receding in the central part of the island, north of the capital Manila, Lando’s near-record rainfall has saturated the region’s major river basins.
Among others areas to bear the brunt of Typhoon Koppu are prime agricultural areas in provinces such as Nueva Vizcaya and Nueva Ecija. This “rice bowl” is prone to annual flooding, and this year is no exception.
However, northern provinces have taken most of the heavy rainfall as they are at the convergence of several river systems – including Magat, a major hydroelectric dam – from the south and flows from the Sierra Madre mountain range to the north. Magat reportedly reached critically high levels, forcing authorities to release huge quantities of water into an already overloaded river system.
A senior official from Barangay Bonfal, Isabela, said she was worried about the livelihoods of 100 farming families near the river, who despite years of lobbying have not succeeded in securing a purpose-built evacuation centre or a dyke to protect them from floods.
“These people are always affected,” she said. “This time some of their houses were totally washed out and one block is under water. We need clothes, bedding and medicines because children are getting coughs and fever.” However, she said, the river communities could no longer face the annual floods. “What we need is a long-term solution to this problem.”
Red Cross assessment teams travelling north along the Philippine Highway from Nueva Vizcaya Province reported floods of several meters in some places, with people camped beside the road under tarpaulins, and others refusing to budge from their homes for fear of losing their livestock –for many the only source of family income.
The Cagayan River Valley is completely submerged by water, with residents and Philippine Red Cross staff reporting that some areas are facing a catastrophic rise in water levels, while in others the water is lingering much longer than usual.
Farmers in the valley have been forced to evacuate to higher ground as their crops of rice, corn and vegetables are submerged, with only the tallest trees visible above the water line.
In this part of the island, it is common for people to shift to higher ground when their homes are flooded rather than take refuge in evacuation centres, which have been established by the government.
Barangay captain Carlos Valino said floods usually stayed around for a few days, but his community had been warned that this time they could take several days to disperse. “I’ve had previous experience of flooding and sometimes they go up to the road. The only solution for us is to camp beside or even on the road,” he said. – Rappler.com
Kate Marshall is a journalist and an International Federation of Red Cross communications delegate. She filed this story on October 20, 2015.