ITOGON, Benguet: At least 78 families were left homeless after a sinkhole opened up in Batuang Road in Virac, Itogon, in Benguet and swallowed a boarding house on Thursday afternoon a day after Typhoon Lando left the country.
According to a certain Mary Ann, one of the boarders, she was at the window of the house when she saw an avocado tree across Batuang Road suddenly disappear around 4:30 p.m.
She then heard a strange, rumbling sound coming from the ground. Sensing danger she immediately ran outside as she alerted other residents to flee.
In 15 minutes, the house sank in the sinkhole before horrified residents. No one was reported hurt in the incident.
The boarding house is owned by Esteban Par, its occupants mostly employees of Benguet Corporation who were at work at the time the sinkhole opened up.
According to Grace Pocsol, the town’s social welfare officer, about 78 families who were directly affected by the incident were brought to evacuation centers set up for typhoon survivors.
The death toll from Typhoon Lando rose to 46 on Friday while five people remained missing, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).
Retired vice admiral Alexander Pama, executive director of the NDRRMC, said Benguet has the biggest number of casualties with 16; followed by Pangasinan, 7; Isabela, 4; Zambales, 4; and Ifugao, 3.
Fatalities were also reported in Nueva Ecija, Aurora, Baguio City and Quezon City, among other places.
He said a total of 295,835 families or 1,047,805 people were affected by the typhoon.
Pama said two provinces, a city and nine municipalities were declared under a state of calamity. These are Aurora and Isabela provinces; Ilagan City in Isabela; Arayat in Pampanga, Supot in Ilocos Sur, Calumpit in Bulacan, Infanta and Gen Nakar in Quezon, Baler in Aurora, Camiling and Ramos in Tarlac and Cabatuan in Isabela.
Pama reminded local officials to refer to pre-determined criteria that should be met before they declare their area under a state of calamity.
“There are specific criteria in declaring state of calamity [so that we won’t have problems in utilizing funds],” he said.
The government, both local and national, and non-government organizations, according to Pama, have provided some P27.67 million worth of assistance in the affected regions.
According to him, they are doing an accounting and monitoring of the relief goods given to the affected residents for an efficient distribution.
“We don’t mind doubling the help given. That’s better than not giving enough help,” Pama said in Filipino.
He added that damage has been estimated to reach P9.4 billion, with P8.4 billion in agriculture and P1.2 billion in infrastructure.
Pama said 751 schools were damaged, of which 240 were totally destroyed, while 26,124 houses were also damaged.
He added that 92 road sections and 11 bridges were still not passable because of flooding and landslides.
Five cities and 52 municipalities in Regions 1, 2, 3, 4A and the Cordillera Administrative Region still experience power interruption.
Power is yet to be restored in Kalinga and Aurora.
Airborne rescue teams have dropped relief goods and other basic needs to people stranded on rooftops in several villages in Calumpit (Bulacan) and in the neighboring coastal town of Hagonoy as rampaging floods coming from Nueva Ecija, Pampanga and Tarlac continue to flow downstream in the two coastal towns, the perennial catch basin during typhoon season.
Bulacan Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management officer Liz Mungcal said volunteer aerial rescue teams from PureForce Corp. airlifted and distributed relief goods to people who were isolated by floods in some villages that were submerged under 5 to 9 feet since Monday morning.
“They are a big help in sending assistance to flood victims in Calumpit and Hagonoy. They have reached stranded victims, most of whom are temporarily sheltered on makeshift tents on rooftops, that cannot be immediately reached by our rescue teams due to strong current,” she added.
As of 6 a.m. of Friday, Mungcal said 24 villages in Calumpit are still submerged under 4 to 9 feet of floodwaters while 16 villages in Hagonoy were under 3 to 8 feet.
In nearby Pulilan town, 12 low-lying areas are being swallowed by floodwaters from the Candaba swamp in Candaba, Pampanga, and are under 2 to 3 feet of water.
The village of Pinalagdan in Paombong town was also flooded under 3 to 4 feet of water.
Muncal said Hagonoy Mayor Raul Manlapaz and Calumpit Mayor Jessie de Jesus have placed their respective towns under state of calamity because of rising floods.
Some 2,079 families from the affected towns are still housed in the different evacuation centers.
The water level at Angat dam has risen from 203 meters last Thursday to 204.3 meters on Friday morning.
The water level in Ipo dam is 100.6 meters (spilling level: 101 meters) while the water level at Bustos dam is 17.37 meters (spilling level: 17.70 meters)
419 classrooms destroyed
As of Thursday, at least 419 classrooms were partly damaged while 445 were totally destroyed in the eight regions ravaged by the typhoon, according to the Department of Education (DepEd). Of these classrooms, 178 schools in these regions were battered by Typhoon Lando.
Meanwhile, the DepEd central office has ordered all regional directors in the typhoon-hit areas to allow evacuees to use schools as evacuation centers.
The Education department also directed the school heads to immediately conduct make-up classes in an effort to bring back a sense of normalcy.
Education Secretary Armin Luistro said classes in the affected areas will resume on a regular basis as soon as possible once the schools are again ready for occupancy.
Once schools are cleared, we will welcome our students back for psycho-social interventions,” Luistro told this reporter via text messaging on Thursday.
With NEIL A. ALCOBER and PNA