By Mia Catalan
On June 21, 2008, Saturday, Typhoon Frank visited Iloilo and left 42 towns and 1 component city in massive devastation.
The whole Iloilo province was declared under a state of calamity. The towns that were hit the hardest include Oton, Miagao, Leganes, Pavia, Zarraga, Leon, Janiuay, Pototan, Dumangas, Barotac Nuevo, Ajuy and Carles. Records from the City Social Welfare and Development of Iloilo City showed 180 barangays and 418 000 people directly affected by Frank. The Provincial Disaster Coordinating Council reports damage to 1277 barangays, 135 dead, 1011 injured and 69 missing as of July 16,2008.
The most affected district was Jaro where it was reported that the water reached 15 feet high in some areas closest to rivers such as Brgy. Desamparados and Brgy. Tabuc Suba. Families owning one-storey houses found themselves seeking refuge at their rooftops all day and night under the heavy downpour.
The residents and officials of Iloilo were caught unprepared for such a calamity. Water rising from the rivers have been constantly monitored, but it was least expected that the water, with soil, would come from the mountains instead. Areas that have never been flooded before found themselves submerged in water. The typhoon Frank, at 150 kph, was not the strongest to hit Iloilo, and yet it was the worst the Ilonggos ever encountered. Overnight, Frank transformed Jaro into an apparent violent river with strong current rendering residents helpless to swim to safety and rescue operations powerless to aid. Many were stuck inside their homes. Water rushed so fast that nobody had time to do anything but try to save themselves. Heavy rains and strong winds flooded whole communities, and felled tress, billboards and electric posts. Also, the overflowing of reservoirs from San Miguel and Maasin contributed to the ruin.
The yearly damage brought by typhoons amount to an average of Php 15 billion. According to the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC), the devastation of Frank alone in the whole country, as of July 4, cost Php 13.321 billion: 7.542 billion to agriculture, Php 5.779 billion to infrastructure including Php 4.239 damage to roads and bridges. Based on damages, Frank is clearly the worst to hit the Philippines. NDCC also reports that a total of 3.6 million had been affected by Frank, with 540 dead, 41missing, and 175 injured. (Source: GMANews.TV)
What made matters worse was the unpreparedness of the City Crisis Management (CCM). Although the CCM has enough personnel to carry out rescue operations, they were short of the necessary equipment. The city had only one rubber boat available which was in bad shape. CCM attempted to borrow equipment from private groups. However, the strong water current made rescue operations a failure especially during the worst of the typhoon. Even a helicopter from the military failed in its attempt to join the rescue and returned to ground due to the bad weather. Despite the fact that Pres. Gloria Arroyo has ordered that navy and air assets are at the province’s disposal for rescue operations, personnel were not able to respond to all calls of distress. Radio stations were also bombarded with requests of aid but agencies did not have enough equipment. Furthermore, 10 members of the Iloilo Watercraft Association met and offered their assistance with the use of their personal jet skis. There were able to aid residents of Brgy. Tabuc Suba and Ledesco Village, but had to stop when it became too dangerous to maneuver throught stranded vehicles, debris and other objects underwater especially with the strong current.
Organizations, both government and non-government, acted in response to the calamity by giving donations to the flood victims. Major contributions include the following:
The Department of Health responded by sending an initial Php 471 437.55 worth of medicines and other supplies. The DOH Regional Office also distributed packed foods and oral rehydration medicines to evacuation centers.
World Vision Philippines distributed food and non-food items to different parts of Iloilo. The goods included 25 kilos of rice, noodles, sardines, biscuits, cooking oil, blankets, cooking utensils, and water.
On June 26, 2008, The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) delivered boxes of noodles, biscuits, clothes and water bottles to evacuation centers. Jaro Cathedral has been home to around 700 evacuees during the worst of the flooding.
On June 27, 2008, the Senate delivered the donation boxes and relief goods it has gathered to the officials of Iloilo. The assistance included canned goods, biscuits, coffee, milk, utensils, blankets and other necessities. Senator Manny Villar added one year of his salary aside from other forms of assistance.
On July 1, 2008, President Gloria Arroyo distributed 30 000 relief bundles to the typhoon victims at the Iloilo airport. Each relief pack contained 4 kilos of rice, 12 noodle packs, and 6 sardines. With her were officers of the Federation of Filipino Chinese Chambers of Commerce who handed over a check for Php 10 million. Moreover, the Philippine Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) donated relief goods worth 10 million. The allocation of the relief packs, together with blankets, medicines, and cooking utensils, were done simultaneously in 10 Iloilo towns through the efforts of the Philippine Medical Association.
On July 17, 2008, Manny Pacquiao visited Jaro Cathedral to distribute relief goods and donated Php 1.5 million to the city government of Iloilo. He also gave 1million to Bacolod and another .5million to others. (Philippine Daily Inquirer)
On July, 23, 2008, Sen. Richard Gordon personally supervised the distribution of non-food items such as water, flashlights, blankets, and hygiene kits from the US Agency for International Development at 18 municipalities.
On July 28, 2008, Pilipinas Shell launched the nationwide Typhoon Frank donation drive for contributions, both money and in-kind, as an answer to the call for aid for the victims of Frank. Shell gas stations became a drop-off point for various donations and partnered with AIR21 in transporting the goods to the provinces. Shell’s dynamic efforts reached more than 5 000 families in Panay Island. (philstar.com)
On August 29, 2008, the Boy Scouts of the Philippines (BSP) gave relief assistance to the affected families in Pavia and Leganes. At least 700 families received aid.
Major and minor relief operations are still ongoing on different parts of Iloilo. Many families have yet to make a new home for themselves since their houses were completely destroyed by typhoon frank. As of the first week of September, two months after the flood, Jaro plaza served as home to 56 families. They have been living with the assistance of the city government and other organizations.