Typhoon Usman and nightmarish Christmas holiday times in Bicol

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Flooding of ricefields and villager houses beside the causeway between Vinzons and Labo in Camarines Norte, Bicol area, throughout Typhoon Usman on 29 December 2018. Video: Café Pacific

By David Robie

It was nerve wracking, and at times actually scary. The wind howled and stunned grown bushes, the rain fell in a steady deluge, and electrical energy was reduce for the very best a part of three days.

Vinzons, a small city of about 44,000 individuals in a distant nook of mountainous Bicol in the Philippines, was “marooned”.

The ricefields to the north and west and south of the city have been flooded, the Labo River had damaged its banks and the Pacific Ocean was encroaching to the east.

Once was a rice subject … a flooded space beside the Labo causeway, swollen by the Labo River and trying just like the open sea. Image: David Robie/PMC

Our Christmas current – Typhoon Usman – had turned us right into a digital island.

Typhoon Usman … day by day media stories of dying and destruction, however Vinzons was largely reduce off for communications. – Business World on January 1.

People turned up my spouse’s sister’s residence with horror tales. Flooded in the nighttime. Awakened by floodwaters lapping at their bedside. Waist deep in water.

And the fears of electrocution have been very actual.

Rumours have been rife of deaths in the Vinzons district.

The 360 km street from Manila to Vinzons by way of the rugged Bicol mountains. Map: Google

Communications blackout
But it was onerous to get correct and verified info with a communications blackout. Internet was down. No tv and cellphone reception tough.

Our deliberate journey to the spectacular Mayon volcano, 206 km southwards previous Naga was cancelled. We would by no means have made it.


Flooding at a bridge on the pathway to Mangcayo faculty … after the waters had dropped. Video: Café Pacific

What was actually taking place? I known as in at the local people radio station, Radyo Katabang 107.7FM, tucked away in a rooftop shack.

However, it was Christmas time and though the radio was on an emergency generator, the skeleton workers have been counting on networked programming from Manila, 360 km away on the Pan-Philippine Highway – itself blocked by huge street slips.

Technician Michael Sarical holds the fort at neighborhood Radio Katabang. Image: David Robie/PMC

I drove round with my spouse’s lawyer nephew in a “Judiciary”-plated four-wheel-drive car to get a way of the devastation in the district.

A small army detachment – a truck and troopers – arrived to protect the emergency rice provides and different foodstuffs as they have been being distributed by volunteers on the Vinzons Town Hall.

Soldiers awaiting orders on the Vinzons Town Hall. Image: David Robie/PMC

By December 30, the hurricane – now downgraded to a “tropical depression” (nonetheless very miserable, really) – had eased and kids have been out in droves enjoying in the flooded streets in spite of the dangers.


“Fun” on the flooded Vinzons streets. Video: Café Pacific

Plugged into information
And we have been now plugged into the newscasts once more. It wasn’t fairly as dangerous as we had thought – just one dying in Vinzons (out of a complete of 122 throughout Bicol, the island of Samar and the Central Visayas).

Volunteers on the Vinzons Town Hall put together aid meals packs for evacuees. Image: David Robie/PMC

At least 57 of the lifeless have been from Camarines Sur province, principally from a landslide in the city of Sagnay, stories the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

At least 18 of the lifeless have been from Albay, 15 from Camarines Norte (our province), eight from Sorsogon and seven from Masbate.

Of the 23 lacking individuals – presumed lifeless, 20 have been from Camarines Sur, and three from Tiwi, Albay.

Bicol aid officers additionally stated almost 31,000 individuals had sought shelter in six evacuation centres.

One Municipal Social Welfare Development (MSWD) official I spoke to in Vinzons, Irine Cribe del Rio, stated a complete of 641 households (2185 individuals), had been sheltered throughout the storm, principally at Vinzons Elementary School.

Clean-up time in a Vinzons market store. Image: David Robie/PMC

Ricefields devastated
Although they went again to their houses – if nonetheless standing – their freshly planted ricefields and livelihoods have been devastated.

An common of 20 typhoons and storms lash the Philippines annually, killing lots of of individuals and leaving thousands and thousands in near-perpetual poverty, stories The Guardian.

The strongest was Super Typhoon Haiyan which left greater than 7360 individuals lifeless or lacking throughout the central Philippines in 2013.

Yet, remarkably, in spite of the hardships the neighborhood is filled with smiles and laughter.

David Robie and his spouse, Del, have been on holiday in the Bicol city of Vinzons when the hurricane struck. They help an area faculty by way of the Auckland-based Project Lingap Kapwa.

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