(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

Typhoon turns motorway into a raging river

Floods in the aftermath of the Typhoon Marakot have left thousands stranded
Jason Gutierrez/IRIN

As Typhoon Marakot hit the Philippines’ main island of Luzon on 5 August, displacing several thousands, it turned the motorway leading to one of its major towns into a raging river.

The Air Force rescued dozens of villagers stranded on rooftops as the water flowing down the main highway leading to Botolan, a town on Luzon’s west coast, washed away houses, vehicles and farm animals, officials and survivors said. Floodwaters also breached a dyke near Botolan. The coastal town has been declared in a “state of calamity”, said the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC).

Accounts of the typhoon’s damage are still pouring in as relief officials rush aid to more than 90,000 people affected by heavy flooding and landslides unleashed by the typhoon, which claimed 22 lives.

"The water quickly rose and we had to rush for higher ground," Joey Tiago, who fled with his wife and three young children, told IRIN. "We decided to leave quickly. We didn't have time to bring anything with us. The water was too fast and if we had waited a moment longer, we would have been washed away."

The typhoon struck while disaster officials were still trying to help more than 375,000 people affected by massive flooding after heavy rains in the southern island of Mindanao.

Marakot gathered strength as it moved out of the Philippines and slammed into Taiwan over the weekend, where it caused the island's worst flooding in half a century and killed at least 12 people. Officials there said more than 50 people were missing while troops were trying to rescue thousands cut off by destroyed bridges or swollen rivers.

Evacuation centres

Tiago and his family joined nearly 8,000 people from Botolan who are being temporarily housed in 11 schools as large parts of the town remain submerged.

Amor Deloso, the governor of Zambales province, where Botolan is located, said those displaced may not be allowed to return home for an indefinite period as schools were shut down temporarily in the area.

"We are appealing for more tents and relief items," he said.

The typhoon has caused nearly US$1 million worth of damage to infrastructure and agriculture, the NDCC said.

The NDCC said some 92,211 people on Luzon, which has a population of 40 million, were affected. Of that number, 11,216 were rushed to 15 evacuation centres, where they awaited additional blankets, water, medicines and food.

Richard Gordon, chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross, said his agency had distributed some aid to six evacuation centres over the weekend. Volunteers had also provided mats, blankets and soap to families affected by a landslide in Nueva Ecija province in central Luzon.

The Philippines, located along the typhoon belt in the Pacific, is hit by an average 20 typhoons every year, which claim the most lives of all natural disasters, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.


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