Flood in Cagayan de Oro City on Dec. 16, 2011

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
It is a grim account of one of the most tragic flood that happen in my city a month ago that left many people homeless, dead and missing, a number of entire villages wiped out, properties totally damaged.

Submitted: January 13, 2012

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Submitted: January 13, 2012

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Flood in Cagayan de Oro on December 16, 2011

The most invasive, calamitous flood that swept away people, children, houses, villages, subdivisions and islets located in one of the major river system in the City of Cagayan de Oro Philippines on December 16, 2011 has left a big scar and forever imprinted on the memory of its people who have lost their love ones, belongings and properties on that tragic event. On that grievous day, we were tossed up in the international map, people around the world empathized, help poured in torrents, sympathies and wonderment abound aplenty why it has to happened. People who witnessed and have seen video footages, watched television coverages were left with one hundred one questions if the major disaster could have been prevented or avoided if the people were more aware of our fragile ecosystem and its preservation.

Flood come and goes before homo sapiens ever walk the earth, and the situation is exacerbated and mitigated by man’s interference with nature, deforestation, rapid urbanization, irresponsible infrastructure development , greed, stupidity and ignorance.

Anyone who stood on its path and fury was never spared. And that lead me to seek answers, a relative is a victim living not far away from that river in a small subdivision. So I do the research and stuff, and I found out that Cagayan de Oro river is slopping and meandering, as its snakes its way through the mouth of the sea. Due to all the abuses and indiscriminate cutting down of trees to make way for agriculture that were never replaced upon on watersheds, slopes and mountains, it is a major disaster waiting to happen. As a result, riverside areas suffer from poor water retention and contribute to the high sediment loads of rivers, constricting waterways and shallow river mouths. When the torrent of waters came it did not follow the landscape of the river, it just cascaded like waterfall, as a result, houses built beside the river banks were washed out, including subdivisions and villages.

On that fateful night when the stormed approaches, rain has been pouring continuously for several hours, everything seems normal, then there was a sudden black out,. After an hour electricity resumed for ten minutes then another black out, so I decided to go to bed wondering what is with the fuzz of this black outs. I am living 12 kilometers from where it all happened, and I never noticed that gushing wind outside my home, completely unaware of the catastrophe that befell on the residence living near river banks.

Many people have been literally swept away from their houses, or together with their houses, carried out to where the rushed of flood had indescriminately dumped them , down the river. Logs and different kind of debris were carried too among the sleeping children, parents, kids, and animals who were caught totally ill prepared when the flood arrived. Many have drowned when they were trapped inside their dwellings, the level of water rising up so fast, they found out soon enough death is inescapable, inevitable. They embraced ech other tightly, as they reluctantly resigned to their fate. That is why you will see couples embracing each other even on death when they were found. Many have been knocked out unconscious when hit by large debris and sharp objects, while others suffocated when they accidentally swallowed and imbibed muddied water,others were hit by planks, steel roofs, woods, logs , sharp objects, and other debris.

Many were washed out to sea, barely escaping the stamped of death carried by the swift current, scrambling or grabbing and holding on to what ever passed their way, as they struggled to keep afloat amidst the many objects that hit and riled against them from every direction Shivering bodies, barely conscious, tears unabated they struggled to stay calm and rational, several thoughts playing simultaneously in their mind, wondering if their family who was separated from them have made it out to safety. Were their kids spared? Did they manage to make it out to safety?

One woman who was swept away and separated from the rest of her family was struggling to keep afloat, amidst the continuous rain,murky water littered with all kinds of debris you never imagine and a heavy current right in the Cagayan de Oro river, their home was once built in the center of the little islet of the river. It was washed out when heavy torrential rains from the mountains cascaded down on the lowlands towards the direction of the river. She is struggling to keep from drowning amidst the floating animals, sharp objects, logs and branches of trees that were swept together with her. She sustain wounds but refuse to give up and was clinging to a branch big enough to carry her, until the heavy current brought her into the mouth of the open sea, towards the direction of the Cagayan de Oro gulf. She struggled to stay conscious and calm, then she spotted something big floating, the moment it passed her way, she grabbed onto it and release the branch she was clinging onto. The object was a big refrigerator, floating on its side and something is laying on top about 2 feet from her. She looked hard trying to determine what it is, then it made a hissing sound. Oh my gosh, a snake, coiling on itself, the biggest one she has seen in her life. She screamed out of fright, the snake is a terrifying, poisonous cobra. The cobra was caught offguard and was trying to move, but the water and current made it hard for him to maneuver and keep his balance from falling off to sea. The woman is weighing her options, she looked around, they are now travelling towards the direction of the deeper portion of the gulf, no rescue in sight, besides its very dark. Then she noticed a very big mountain looming far beyond, and surmise the refrigerator is navigating towards the direction of Camiguin island, a popular tourist spot, separated from the mainland way back during a volcanic eruption. She looked back on the hissing snake that looked at her without blinking. She uttered a silent prayer and a plea telling the snake not to attack her. The snake looked at her menacingly. The woman is thinking of turning the ref on its side if the snake will try to move again, perhaps the snake was also thinking, if this woman will try to shove him towards the terrifying water, he is going to put his fangs on her. They both stare at each other the whole time they shared a ride of the floating device, wary and untrusting. Both shivering and wondering how she is spared and yet was brought face to face with this dreaded creature. Snake is also asking where is he going by now, all he could smell is salt water all around him. Imagine being tossed in an unknown territory if youre the snake eh. After twenty minutes of sharing a turbulent ride, that will take a boat ride for 2 hours to reach the island, they finally docked in Camiguin Island, tired and cold. Both exhausted and depleted of their strength, two went their separate ways.

Barely alive and walking on thin ice, she and the other victims went back to the place were it all started and began seeking for their loves ones in hospitals, funeral parlors and evacuation centers. It was a grim sight to those whose worst fears were finally confirmed. Bloated corpses, dismantled bodies and mangled body parts, kids forever preserved in an eternal sleep posed, as well as gothic frozen screaming faces.

Many walked away from death in a catatonic state, a few went crazy, their homes forever lost, clothes gone, useless appliances immersed in the flood, and most specially their families. How long can a victim withstand the onslaught and accept this emotional trauma before sanity will desert him or her? You tell me.

Many of those missing were either buried beneath the mud, forever entombed indefinitely on unmarked locations that were their designated final resting place. Some were adrift and scattered out in the gulf, both the living and the dead, like rag dolls, others were partly eaten by whoever loves to gobble dead flesh in the sea. Those who are still hanging for dear life were found as far as 60 miles away from the shore, refusing to die, clinging on whatever is floating nearby, until helped arrived. There are those that were carried to some other islands, wounded, tired, thirsty, hopeless and totally drained. The searched and retrieval team could not go near to those other floating corpses in the advance state of decomposition scattered and splayed among the many scattered debris and logs for there are large snakes acting like perfect sentinels guarding the decomposing flesh, angry and hissing.

Life is fleeting and can be a bitch at times. A week after the flood, I am one of those who was requested to assist and helped to clean out the home of my relative. Peter do you remember that overpass, we traversed back and forth before we reached the bridge? Going to the right is the place called Balulang which is badly hit, and where my relative is taking up his residence. Riding on a vehicle we passed several villages and we were hit with this overpowering stench odor of decomposing flesh permeating the air, and acrid smell of mud.. A housing subdivision have many corpses trapped inside and the army is busy doing a thorough clean up.. At the side of the road I saw several cars and vehicles, smashed, mangled lying on its side on a narrow culvert waiting for its final judgment. Moments later we arrived on the entrance of the village. Due to the large accumulation of mud, silt and debris present on the streets, the vehicle could not enter into the center of the subdivision, so we were left with one choice, to walk. We remove our footwear for the mud is about 5 inches deep. We thread carefully while holding on to our bags that contained our lunches and things we shall usefor the clean up, including containers filled with water for there is no electricity and water suppy yet. After 50 yards of carefully navigating the slippery and treacherous muddy street we finally reached the house. The flood had almost reached the ceiling, about 7 feet high, all the things that were made of wooden materials like beds, dressers, tables and chairs were bloated and stripped of their varnished. Things were everywhere and the smell is awful. We take turns removing the mud that accumulated inside by scraping it using a rake and anything that can be used as a container to collect the mud and throw it outside. Clothes were thrown outside for the garbage truck to collect, family photographs wasted, documents, school materials, books and anything made of paper is disposed of. We labored for six hours only stopping to take our lunches. I interviewed the wife of my grandpa before we went there, and this is what she narrated to me.

It was around 10 pm already, the rain is unleashing with no sign of let up, sleep is not an option for them, for they have prior taste of two feet of flood way back in 2009. About two hours later they hear a loud noise like a thunder clap, followed by shrieking voices of people asking for help, it is a wooden house swept by the rising floodwaters with family inside shouting for help. The lelvel of water is risinng up fast, the frantic wife tried to stay calm. Since it is apparent the water will go higher than was orignally projected, she asked her next door neighbor to allow them to climb on their rooftop for their is a big mango tree they could climb on to as the last bastion of defense in case the water level will reach more than 15 feet. In short they made it out to safety, together with the neighbor standing on the top of the slippery roof made of steel, shivering, hungry, while the torrential rain keeps its unleashing powert and the force of the wind riling against their bodies. The water level reached a maximum of 7 feet. They heard shrieking voices asking for help, it was so dark, they can barely see anything beyond a few feet. Listening all those screaming humans made them so sad, for they are totally helpless to render assistance. Four hours later, the flood subsided. The following morning is a testament of the big chaos of destruction, carnage and trash.

Those on the evacuation centers are suffering from various sickness and diseases due to congestion and over crowding. Many villages were totally wiped out and the government issued a stern statement, that people could no longer build houses among those areas that are in the direct path of the flood. Relocation is the long term plan but as of the present, what the government can do is to build tents on designated areas, because school has resumed after the Christmas break and until the evacuees could be relocated, the kids could not use their classrooms.

The international community tried to help, and we are thankful for that but all it can do really is to provide temporary relief, in the end it is our responsibility to straighten our lives and rectify our wrong doings, and learn from our ignorance and indifference. I have now a more profound knowledge on the mechanics of a flood, and the recipe for its disaster. Unless we shall learn to love and respect nature , and understand its labyrinthine functions that binds us together in our continuous existence , then we shall continue to suffer. Respect for the environment, and the inter independent relationship that we must learn to recognize, acknowledge and embrace. The significance of the delicate balance of nature that we humansmust be fully aware of and to share the knowledge of the lessons that we learned from the calamity to our children and our children's children.


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