Lake swallows villages

SAN PABLO CITY—Dry land has disappeared in hundreds of villages swallowed by Laguna Lake, making these uninhabitable for more than 700,000 people in Laguna province.

The floods came, and never left, with the water level in the lake rising by at least 10 feet (the height of an average house), according to a report from the Laguna Lake Development Authority.

Hundreds of lakeshore villages in the towns of Mabitac, Pakil, Siniloan, Pangil, Paete, Kalayaan, Lumban, Sta. Cruz, Pila, Victoria, Calauan, Bay, Los Baños, Cabuyao, Biñan and San Pedro, and the cities of Calamba and Sta. Rosa virtually “disappeared” from the map.

Some villages in the towns of Pagsanjan and Sta. Maria were also flooded.

Floodwaters in these towns and cities were several feet deep.

More than a week after the onslaught of Tropical Storm “Ondoy” (international codename: Ketsana), the flood has not subsided in these lakeshore villages.

The social welfare officer of Laguna said in his Oct. 4 report to the Social Action Center (SAC) of the San Pablo Diocese that 13 persons were killed, 750,248 people were displaced and 20 towns submerged in the province when the lake overflowed due to Ondoy.

The province has about 2.5 million residents.

Highway submerged

Two residents from Pakil town, who came to the SAC office in San Pablo on Oct. 5 to get relief goods for their neighbors, said that despite being spared by Typhoon “Pepeng” (international codename: Parma), the lake’s water level continued to increase because the Caliraya Dam released water into the lake.

The residents said the coastal highway along Paete and Pakil remained flooded and unpassable.

Public and private commuters had to negotiate through interior roads of the town centers of Paete and Pakil to get through Pangil, Siniloan and nearby areas. The roads in the town centers remain flood free.

“There is always heavy traffic occurring inside Paete and Pakil towns as the bulk of commuters collectively crowd the narrow streets of the municipalities,” said the residents, who did not give their names.

Although not submerged in floodwaters, four other towns also reported damage and destruction caused by Ondoy, namely, Alaminos, with 234 persons affected; Calauan, with 218 people displaced; Rizal, with four barangays affected; and Liliw, where five houses were damaged.

The Provincial Social Welfare and Development (PSWD) said in its report that the worst town affected by the flooding was Biñan where it recorded 198,700 people or 45,125 families affected.

Three houses in the town were washed away by the floods during Ondoy’s fury.

After Biñan, the most severely affected town was San Pedro. The flooding affected 153,636 of its people (25,606 families).

It was followed by Sta. Cruz, the capital town, where 102,590 individuals or 20,498 families were displaced.

In Sta. Rosa City, 77,052 people (14,951 families) were displaced; Cabuyao—46,001 people (7,670 families); Calamba City—38,819 people (8,024 families); and Los Baños—29,730 people (5,496 families).