GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/13 February) – Hundreds of houses in two major villages here were submerged in floodwaters as another major waterway swelled anew over the weekend due to heavy rains in the area during the last two days.
Mayor Darlene Antonino-Custodio said Monday significant portions of Barangays Lagao and Baluan here have remained flooded due to the impounding of huge volumes of floodwaters from the nearby Kalaja River.
Citing their initial assessment, she said the floods already affected 630 families that were situated in low-lying areas of the two villages.
“The floodwaters reached waist-deep in some areas but there has been no evacuation as the affected residents decided to just remain in their areas,” the mayor said.
Custodio said the floodwaters from Kalaja River started to swell towards the area on Sunday following almost 10 hours of heavy rains as triggered by a passing Low Pressure Area.
She said the river’s waters, which drain towards the Buayan Creek and end up in the Sarangani Bay, failed to follow its normal course due to some barriers clogging portions of the waterway and the high tide in the bay.
The mayor said she has dispatched personnel from city’s social welfare, agriculture, veterinary and engineering offices to assess the damage wrought by the floods, especially on properties and agricultural crops.
Custodio said personnel from the National Irrigation Administration and the Department of Agriculture proceeded to the area to look into the situation.
The City Engineering Office has initially deployed a backhoe in nearby Barangay Bula to relieve the clogged portions of the river’s outlet, she said.
“We also provided relief goods to the affected residents and we’re looking at releasing additional assistance to those whose houses were damaged by the floods,” said Custodio, who supervised the relief operations in the area on Monday morning.
Aside from the declogging operations and the implementation of other remedial measures, Custodio said the city government is currently studying the possibility of restoring the closed portions of the original waterway or outlet of Kalaja River to end the perennial flooding in the area.
She said the river’s normal flow towards its outlet had been altered these past years due to developments within the private properties that it traversed.
Some property owners reportedly closed down portions of the river’s natural waterway to give way to some land developments, she said.
“We will be seeking the assistance of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for the tracing of the river’s natural waterways and eventually for their restoration,” Custodio said.
The mayor said the local government would also seek the removal from private ownership of lands covered by the river’s original waterway, noting that they should not be covered by land titles.
“We really have no choice but to free up the closed portions of the river’s natural waterway or the flooding will only worsen,” Custodio added. (Allen V. Estabillo / MindaNews)