disasters

Floods submerge Pampanga towns after Ulysses causes river to swell

Sofia Tomacruz
Floods submerge Pampanga towns after Ulysses causes river to swell

FLOODS. At the boundary of Barangay San Juan and San Pedro in San Simon, Pampanga, floodwaters are still seen on November 14, 2020, days after Typhoon Ulysses hit the Philippines.

Screenshot from Municipality of San Simon video

Floods are expected to continue 'from several days to weeks' in low-lying areas of Pampanga

After heavy rain from Typhoon Ulysses (Vamco) caused parts of the Pampanga River to overflow, the Pampanga River Basin Flood Forecasting and Warning Center (PFFWC) said several towns in the province are submerged in floods that are expected to last at least several days. 

In a bulletin posted by the center on Sunday, November 15, parts of the river basin and its allied river systems had waters rising above alarm levels, affecting several low-lying areas in the province. 

Specifically, the PFFWC indicated the following as of 5:30 am on Sunday:

  • Tributary Rio Chico River at Zaragoza at 3.66 meters (above the 3.5 m alarm water level) 
  • Middle main Pampanga River at Arayat at 8.22 m (above 6.0 m alarm water level)
  • Candaba swamp area at 6.22 m (“way above” 5.0 m critical water level)
  • Lower main Pampanga River at Sulipan, at 3.98 m (above 3.8 m critical water level) 

Bulletins issued by the center indicated floods had occurred since Thursday, November 12. Waters were expected to recede slowly in these areas of the Pampanga River and its allied water systems starting Sunday, the PFFWC said. 

Despite this, the center warned floods were expected to persist for at least several days to weeks in low-lying areas since waters were expected to recede at a slow pace.

In the flat lands of Apalit, Calumpit, Hagonoy, Macabebe, Masantol, portions of Paombong, and portions of Malolos, the PFFWC said “extensive flooding” was seen due to merged riverine floods, accumulated rainwater, and tide-induced floods. 

Floods were also expected to continue “from several days to weeks” in the low-lying areas of Candaba, San Luis, San Simon, and portions of the adjacent towns of San Miguel, San Ildefonso, San Rafael, Pulilan, and Baliuag. 

As early as November 12, the PFFWC had warned of floods as the passage of Ulysses “resulted in a slow to gradual rise” of the river including its major tributaries, as well as a slow-fill up of the Candaba swamp area.

On Sunday, University of the Philippines (UP) lecturer John Louie Fabila of the Department of Geodetic Engineering posted satellite images showing towns awash with floodwater on November 13. 

Meanwhile, UP Resilience Institute Executive Director Mahar Lagmay posted similar scenes showing parts of Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, and Bulacan showing floods on November 13.

Devastation continues

News of flooding in Pampanga comes on the heels of massive flooding also seen in Marikina City and Cagayan, after Typhoon Ulysses barreled across Luzon on November 12. Ulysses hit the Philippines only days after Super Typhoon Rolly (Goni) devastated the country on November 3. 

Flooding occurred as tropical cyclones came one after another in the past month, leaving the soil in many parts of Luzon saturated with limited capacity to absorb rainfall.

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In the case of Cagayan, the province’s dwindling forest cover due to illegal logging activities has also been blamed for the flooding.

Cagayan Governor Manuel Mamba described the worst flooding to hit the valley province in 40 years as a “summation of our wrongs to the environment,” and urged the government to implement a “holistic approach” to prevent similar disasters from happening. 

On Sunday, calls for assistance to be given to Pampanga residents also filled on social media platforms with the hashtag #PampangaNeedsHelp. – Rappler.com

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Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.