Maritess Madera, LWR’s regional finance manager for Southeast Asia, lives just outside Cagayan de Oro, one of the cities hardest hit by this weekend’s flooding. She shared the stories of two LWR colleagues who experienced the devastation firsthand.
Last Friday night, typhoon Washi devastated Mindanao, particularly the cities of Cagayan de Oro, Iligan and other provinces in Mindanao. Two LWR staff members, John, our driver and warehouse custodian, and Christine, our Philippines finance manager, were in Cagayan with their families when the typhoon hit the city.
Christine’s house was flooded. Around 2:00 Saturday morning, when water started to raise up to thier knees, they immediately evacuated and went to an elevated area. Christine was so focused on the safety of her two sons that she didn’t even bring her phone with her. They went to a friend’s house, and then early Saturday, checked into a hotel – the only place with access to water and power (from a generator). They could not go back to their house because the road is so muddy (knee level) and their house is full of mud.
In John’s case, the water entered the house around 7 a.m. Saturday. The water level was up to his hips. He begged his neighbor, whose house has a second floor, to let his wife and son stay on the second floor of neighbor’s house so that they would be safe while John tried to save their furniture and equipment. Saturday night, they decided to stay in a hotel. The hotels were fully booked and people were fighting just to be able to get a hotel room. John’s family lost their furniture and most of their belongings, but they did manage to get their clothes.
In my case, I live in an elevated area an hour’s drive from the city, so we did not experience flooding, although in our area four people died who live close to the river. I went to Cagayan de Oro Saturday noon, after the rain stopped, to get pictures and get information. Unfortunately, I did not get good pictures because the road is not accessible due to mud. Houses are full of mud, people are all full of mud too, many fled their homes without wearing any shoes. People lost their houses, furniture, equipment and also clothes. They wanted to clean their house but there was no water supply or power. Potable water is not available. All bottled water was sold out and the water refilling station could not purify water because there was no power supply and the water source is full of mud.
I saw a couple who has bruises on their bodies, they were survivors from the flood. They said that they survived because they hugged a mango tree; water was up to their throats already and they kept asking for help until the rescuer helped them. I saw families with infants who were just staying on the road because the evacuation center is crowded already and they could not go back to their home.
Cagayan de Oro was supposed to be the safest city in the Philippines because it was safe from typhoons. In my 32 years of existence, this is the first time that a tragedy like this happened in Cagayan de Oro city.
Learn more about how Lutheran World Relief is responding to the flooding in the Philippines and how you can help.