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Francis Luzada (center) onboard a rubber boat with rescuers from the Philippine National Police. Photo: Alecs Ongcal

One Man’s Attempt to Escape After a Typhoon Hit His Home

Flooding caused by Typhoon Vamco forced many Filipinos to flee their homes and move to evacuation centers in the middle of a pandemic.
November 13, 2020, 2:43pm

Francis Luzada pleaded to emergency responders entering Provident Village after overnight torrential rains from Typhoon Vamco submerged his riverside neighborhood on Thursday. He lives in Marikina City, a suburb of the Philippine capital Manila that experiences intense flooding whenever a typhoon hits the country.

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Residents climb to their roofs while others swim to escape the flooding. Photo: Alecs Ongcal

Luzada had been wading through chest-deep muddy waters, flagging every rescue boat he encountered for four hours, before a team of police officers finally pulled him up to help save his family from the roof of their home. 

"It's like Ondoy (Typhoon Ketsana) all over again," Luzada told VICE News as he navigated an avenue leading to their house.

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The scene on the way was a familiar sight — residents on top of their roofs waving and shouting for help, mothers clutching their babies, most of them wet from the rain. 

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A resident of Provident Village waits for rescuers above a submerged truck. Photo: Alecs Ongcal

In 2009, Typhoon Ketsana dumped a month's volume of rain overnight, swelling the Marikina River water level to 21.5 meters. It killed hundreds of people, 15 just in Provident Village. 

Eleven years later, not much has changed when it comes to flooding. Typhoon Vamco's rain volume was far lower but the river's water level was 0.5 meters higher compared to Ketsana. And now, Filipinos have to deal with the effects of the typhoon — floods, power outages, landslides, and busy evacuation centers — in the middle of a pandemic.

Outside the capital, in other parts of Luzon Island, provinces are now under a state of calamity and dead bodies are still being recovered. Online, many Filipinos took the government to task and said it should have been more prepared for the disaster. After all, over 20 typhoons hit the Philippines every year. 

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Some of the people affected by the flooding in a nearby mall that opened as an evacuation center. Photo: Alecs Ongcal

Over 200 people were rescued from Provident Village alone as of 7PM on Thursday, according to Marikina Mayor Marcelino Teodoro. No deaths or missing persons were reported in the area this year but close to 10,000 individuals are now housed in the city's evacuation centers. 

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Francis Luzada (center) on board a rubber boat with rescuers from the Philippine National Police. Photo: Alecs Ongcal

Luzada lives in a 3-story house with his wife, two children, two relatives, a tenant, and their housekeeper. Just minutes after heading back to his home, the motorized boat Luzada was on struggled with the strong current. None of the eight cops he was with could control the vessel, so they bumped into obstacles like a pinball. 

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A dog on the roof of a submerged house. Photo: Alecs Ongcal

The rescue attempt ended abruptly when an officer yelled, "We need to fix this or we'll end up needing rescuing," before going back to the neighborhood’s gate.

On the way back to the staging area at the main entrance, they met a convoy of rescue teams on bigger boats. Luzada jumped into one. By that time, Metro Manila emergency responders, civilian volunteers, and representatives from the national government had started to gather on the road leading to Provident Village.   

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This time, the team of cops, village officers, and volunteers Luzada was with had a rubber boat, a steel vessel, and a jet ski. They looked prepared, restoring hope in Luzada that he will be reunited with his family.

After 10 minutes, he finally saw his family waving from a distance.

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Rescuers guide Luzada's family to the rescue boat. Photo: Alecs Ongcal

Docking by the house, rescuers slowly guided the trapped residents to the boat. Once they were all there, they left the site immediately and headed to the staging area where all rescued individuals waited for trucks that would bring them to an evacuation center. 

More rescue teams started entering Provident Village with more assets from the Navy and the Philippine Coast Guard. The fresh batch of rescuers cheered as they pulled the boat carrying Luzada's family to the rescue base.

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Luzada with his two children. Photo: Alecs Ongcal

Luzada and his family plan to head to an evacuation center or live with other relatives. Although he moved their car to a higher plane, it still ended up submerged in the water that overflowed from the Marikina River. For now, they can't leave the city even if they wanted to.

They’re part of the approximately 27,000 residents displaced by the typhoon in Metro Manila. Police reportedly deployed 41 rubber boats, 280 vehicles, and 1,000 officers in various parts of Metro Manila for rescue operations. The typhoon hit many parts of Luzon, resulting in at least 67 deaths, according to official records as of Nov. 16. Rescue efforts are still ongoing.

Updated on 11/16/20