In Marikina, Typhoon Ulysses brings Ondoy flashbacks

As Typhoon Ulysses (Vamco) continued to drag its way through Luzon early Thursday morning, November 12, the Marikina River's quickly rising water levels stoked decade-old memories for Mayor Marcelino Teodoro. 

Water levels of the river stood at 12.6 meters at 6 pm on Wednesday, November 11, but in a matter of hours, Teodoro said the river reached second alarm as water levels rose to 17.9 meters as of 3 am Thursday.

"Nakakatakot dahil parang Ondoy ang karanasan namin dito dahil 'yung Ondoy, ganito rin nangyari – habang natutulog ang lahat, biglang tumaas ang ilog," Teodoro said in a DZBB interview. 

(It's scary because it's like our experience during [Tropical Storm Ondoy], because during Ondoy this also happened – while people were sleeping, the water quickly rose.) 

By 3:18 am, the city raised the third alarm over the river as waters rose further to 18 meters. 

Teodoro said the city was working to evacuate at least 3,000 families or some 15,000 people in the early hours of Thursday, as Ulysses' strong winds and heavy rain were felt across Metro Manila and in other parts of Luzon. 

Low-lying areas near the Marikina River were already wading in knee-deep water, Teodoro said, adding that he expected the number of evacuees to continue increasing.

"Huwag mag-panic pero mabuti na maingat na maingat tayo," he said. (Don't panic but it is best to be safe.)

Marikina was among the hardest hit cities during Ondoy, recording 70 casualties, most of whom drowned, and more than P27 million (US$605,000) worth of damage.

Although state weather bureau PAGASA issued several advisories, Teodoro said on Thursday that some residents were surprised with Ulysses' strong winds and rain. The night-time evacuation efforts were likewise a big challenge, with electricity out in several areas across the city.

Teodoro said the city had a total of 49 evacuation centers, but not all sites were filled as residents were first evacuated to those located nearest to their homes. Once possible, he said residents would be moved to other centers to avoid crowding. 

This year, local governments face the daunting task of ensuring their residents' safety not only from typhoons, but also from COVID-19 which could be transmitted in enclosed spaces. 

The Department of Health earlier urged local officials to ensure residents continue to observe minimum health standards in order to prevent the spread of the virus in evacuation centers. 

Health officials gave the following tips: 

  • In evacuation sites, mask wearing should be observed and frequent handwashing emphasized.
  • When possible, physical distancing should be observed. When distancing is not possible, officials should continue to monitor those who may be showing COVID-19 symptoms and transfer them immediately to isolation centers. 

As of this posting, PAGASA said Typhoon Ulysses has already made 3 landfalls. The first was in Patnanungan, Quezon, at 10:30 pm Wednesday, the second was in the vicinity of Burdeos, Quezon, at 11:20 pm, and the third was in General Nakar, Quezon, at 1:40 am Thursday. 

Civil Defense officials reported on Wednesday that at least 1 person died and 3 others were missing in the Bicol region due to Ulysses. The region had barely recovered from the onslaught of Super Typhoon Rolly (Goni). – Rappler.com

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.

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