Inquirer, Oct. 31, 2006

Northern, Central Luzon cope with Paeng's destruction

AURORA -- Reports of destruction, injuries and deaths continued to trickle in Tuesday as super typhoon Paeng moved out of the country.

Thousands of families were displaced by the floods. Several persons remained missing.

Initial estimates placed damage to agriculture and livestock at P68.38 million. Damage to infrastructure was less, initially placed at P17 million in Aurora alone.

One good news surfaced. A child who was earlier reported to have drowned turned out to be alive, although seriously injured.

Aurora Governor Bellaflor Angara-Castillo said in a phone interview Tuesday that Ian Viares, 6, from Barangay Dimaseset in Dilasag, survived when strong waves washed out his family's hut. The boy suffered fractured bones and was airlifted by an Army helicopter to a hospital in Baler in Aurora.

Floods and strong winds destroyed 183 houses and damaged 2,042 others in three northern Aurora towns, according to Castillo.

The floods in Dilasag, Casiguran and Dinalungan also ruined P12.5 million worth of crops and livestock, she said. Damage to infrastructure reached P17 million. Rampaging waters washed out the bridge in Barangay Dibacong in Casiguran.

Castillo said the three towns remained isolated as of Tuesday as the provincial road there was blocked by debris. She said the Aurora Memorial Hospital was ready to accommodate injured residents in Dinapigue, Isabela, north of Dilasag, on the request of the mayor there.

Power supply has yet to be restored in most towns in Aurora. The province was also the scene of devastating floods and landslides triggered by storms late 2004.

In Ilagan, Isabela, the houses of 800 families in the village of Camunatan remained submerged in floods. Pedrito Mamuri, 49, and his wife, Florence, cooked instant noodles on their roof on Tuesday.

"We usually bear the brunt of the floodwaters coming from Magat Dam and from the mountain. We have learned to cope every time. It has been a part of our life," Mamuri said.

Villagers here opted to stay on higher grounds or wait for relief goods atop their roofs. They use pieces of tolda (tarpaulin) to shield themselves from rain and the cold breeze. Many families here own boats, which they use during emergencies.

Melecio Agorilla, 52, said their boats (banca) are helpful during floods.

"This is probably the fifth time that our houses were submerged in floodwaters. We have to start all over again as our farms have been destroyed," Agorilla said.

Reports from the provincial social welfare office said the houses of at least 1,800 families in Ilagan were destroyed.

Danilo Tumamao, provincial agriculturist, said damage to rice and corn crops in the province had reached P13.8 million while the fishery sector reported an initial damage of P1.85 million.

Police reports said a man identified as Rey Villarde of Barangay Cabannungan 2nd in Ilagan town, drowned on Tuesday as he tried to recover a log drifting along the Pinacanauan River.

In Cagayan, police said a boat carrying 17 passengers and crewmembers was reported missing in Claveria town on October 29.

Senior Superintendent James Andres Melad, Cagayan police director, said they had yet to receive information on the status of the boat that left the Aparri port. He said their reports indicated that it failed to reach Camiguin Island in Claveria town.

The boat, owned by couple Crisanto and Virgie Oniate, allegedly failed to obtain a travel clearance from the Philippine Coast Guard due to the bad weather. The boat's captain, however, pushed through with the trip, Melad said.

Jovita Ayson, regional director of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, said they could not send rescue teams as her office's sea vessels were sent to Cavite for repair.

At least 88 villages in Lasam, Tuao, Alcala, Lallo, Enrile, Amulung and Tuguegarao City in Cagayan remained flooded.

In Nueva Ecija, Serafin Santos, provincial agriculturist, said about 40,000 hectares of rice crops in their flowering stage and 30,000 hectares of ready to harvest crops were damaged by strong rains and wind brought about by Paeng.

In Tarlac, officials of provincial disaster coordinating council said no village in the province was hit by severe flooding.

In the Cordillera, OCD reports showed that Kalinga and Apayao bore the brunt of damage from Paeng. Vicente Tomazar, Office of the Civil Defense Cordillera director, said 4,735 residents in seven towns of Apayao were evacuated to safer grounds.

Initial damage to agriculture and livestock in Apayao was pegged at P5.6 million while Kalinga reported P32 million in agricultural and livestock losses.

Two died in typhoon-related incidents in the Cordillera. At least 10 members of the Contis family in Barangay Antonio Canao in Lubuagan, Kalinga were hurt when a landslide hit their house.

Benguet posted P2.63 million worth of damage to highland vegetables and flowers due to the typhoon's effects.

Sections of Halsema Highway, the major road used by vegetable traders in Benguet and Mt. Province, were closed due to landslides along the Lingawan and Sinpsip sections in Buguias, Benguet.

Power supply in many towns of Kalinga, Ifugao and Apayao has yet to be restored.

In Pangasinan, the typhoon spared rice crops but damaged vegetables and mango production in the province. Jose Almendares, provincial agriculturist, said 70 percent of farms planted to rice or 120,000 hectares had been harvested before the typhoon struck.

But mango farmers were not so lucky. Reports from Urdaneta City and Villasis showed that fruits from 5,105 trees were blown away by Paeng's wind.

Vegetables, too, in these areas and in Laoac town were not spared.

Almendares said 450 hectares of fields planted to tomatoes, eggplants, ampalaya (bitter gourd), sili (pepper) and upo (bottle gourd) were flooded.

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