Text messages instrumental in relaying flood warnings

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 23 Jan) – Text messages about the flood situation here over the weekend have been helpful for some residents, especially those living in the lowlands like Barangay Waan.

Macabayao Apadan, barangay chairman of Waan, said a friend from Calinan, which is situated 186 meters above sea level, way upstream of the Davao River, texted him of the rising water level. He then forwarded the text advisories to the residents and advised them to leave their houses.

Upon receiving the latest warning by past midnight, Apadan said he informed the villagers through text, too, that it was time to evacuate. “I told them to secure their lives and leave their things behind,” he told MindaNews.

Florita Mancia, 43, from Sitio Libas in Waan, said they also relied only on text messages from relatives in Calinan. Her house was half a kilometer away from the river, and the overflowing water reached their area at 11 p.m. last Saturday.

Water rose quickly, reaching the second floor by 2 a.m. But by then, Mancia and her husband and their four children were already safe on a bamboo raft, along with some clothes. They sought temporary refuge in a covered court at Sitio Dampa.

Although they are safe, but they could not go back to their livelihood yet as their small vegetable farm being tended by Florita was damaged and her husband cannot work in the sand quarry yet as the river is still full of mud. Relatives upstream texted them there was still rain there, and could cause yet another flooding downstream.

Mildred Mamarita, 47, of Purok 5 in Waan received text messages of the impending flood, too. But living just a few meters away from the riverbank, she would usually know of the flood much earlier than the others.

But still, her family lost two of their three boats used for quarrying as the current became stronger. The only remaining boat floated toward their house, which they grabbed right away and used it as their getaway transportation.

Apadan said the quarry boats were instrumental in their escape and hoped that they could have more of those.

But he said the barangay has limited funds to buy equipment for disaster preparedness, considering its small internal revenue allotment, sparing only about P100,000 for calamity fund.

The barangay chairman said they will spend the unutilized 2012 calamity fund to buy life jackets, ropes and rescue boats designed like the quarry boats.

Populated mainly by members of the Kalagan tribe, Waan has 768 households, 651 of which were affected by the flood. Seven houses were totally washed out. The City Social Services and Development Office recorded a total of 750 families with 3,750 dependents who evacuated to the Waan Elementary School. (Lorie Ann A. Cascaro / MindaNews)