When the floodwaters reached her ankle, she knew it was time to evacuate

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/20 January) – Carmen Yongco of Matina Gravahan did not take any chance.

While some were not able to sleep because they monitored the water level of the river, Carmen Yongco of Matina Gravahan decided, it was time to evacuate.

By then, the floodwaters had reached her ankle.

It was 11 p.m.

Yongco, whose house is around 20 meters from the riverbank, said the water level rose to a  foot high by 1 a.m. Sunday.

But Yongco decided as early as 11 p.m. Saturday, to evacuate to the gas station near Bankerohan Bridge, with her belongings, including five rabbits, three guinea pigs, a puppy and chickens.

Like Yongco, Ruby Obas of Don Julian Village in Maa noticed the Davao River was starting to overflow at around11 p.m. Saturday.

Obas recounted that the water level started to rise in their village at 12 midnight.

“We evacuated around 2 a.m. when the water was about knee-deep,” the mother of three said while queuing for a food pack at the Ma-a Gymnasium.

Most of the displaced residents in Ma-a sought refuge at the gymnasium.

In Deca Homes in Barangay Tigatto, Epifania Bangcalita recalled the water level of the Davao River started to rise as early as 11p.m. Saturday.

Bangcalita, who moved to Deca Homes in July last year, said they evacuated to Our Lady of Penafrancia Chapel by midnight as a precautionary measure.

“We were scared that the water level would eventually rise,” she said.

Bangcalita said she first secured her two dogs and few clothes.

Many of their  neighbors, particularly those living near the riverbank, sought refuge in the chapel.

As of 10 a.m. Sunday, around 30 families were still staying at the chapel.

In Deca Homes, the waters reached as high as four feet in Gold St. but only about a foot high in some parts of the subdivision.

Most of those who were forced to evacuate on Saturday night were those living near the Davao River.

Gaudencio Galicha, 62, told Mindanews that his friend in Calinan alerted him through a text message as early as  8 p.m. on Saturday to monitor the water level of the Davao River “because it was raining hard in Calinan on Saturday night” and the water would surely go down in a few hours.

Galicha, who has been running a quarrying business along the Davao River since 1985, was busy keeping watch over his five boats tied to a tree at the riverbank.

“I’m keeping an eye on them because I lost two of them last December,” he said, adding they were carried away by strong currents due to heavy rains.

View Davao City Flooding : Rescue Operations in a larger map

Rubber boats, jet skis

As soldiers, police and volunteers rushed to rescue trapped residents of Jade Valley Subdivision to safer ground, some relatives insisted on riding rubber boats and jet skis to bring food and water to those who wanted to remain in the flooded village.

But Davao City Police chief Sr. Supt. Ronald dela Rosa barred them from riding the boats to allow the rescuers to  save more residents.

“Please, do it later if possible. We need more space for those who need to be rescued,” dela Rosa appealed.

Other relatives volunteered to serve as guides for the rescuers but the  latter said the space they would occupy is best given to residents who need to be rescued.

Rescuers instead asked the relatives to provide the exact location of their relatives.

Aside from the rubber boats of the Navy and 911,  individuals and resort owners offered the use of their jet skis and other floating vessels for the rescue operations.

Rescue operations continued at  Jade Valley Subdivision and Gem Village as of 7:30 p.m. Sunday.

In Gem Village, the 69th Infantry Battalion’s M35 truck navigated through the hip-high flood and transported trapped residents to safer gound while several rubber boats ferried evacuees from Don Julian Village.

The Davao Light and Power Company provided a generator-powered light at the entrance of Gem Village and at the junction going to Jade Valley. (Keith Bacongco / MindaNews)