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Unforgettable Ketsana

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As we were putting this issue to bed, heavy rains walloped Metro Manila and its suburbs. I was stuck in traffic along EDSA in front of Camp Aguinaldo the Saturday Tropical Storm Ketsana hit (Philippine name “Ondoy”).

The waves of water first hit me going to White Plains as I approached the People Power Monument. I’d driven through knee-level floods before and always came out of them with a dry cabin, only the car exterior requiring cleaning. So, I took a deep breath, stepped on the accelerator, and doggedly pushed through the thick EDSA traffic.

In front of Camp Aguinaldo, I came to a standstill, the floodwaters rising. I was to catch a flight to Bacolod later in the afternoon and was exchanging text messages with our host, Kasal.com’s Roger Chua, who said they were only experiencing occasional rain showers there.

I figured the rain would let up and I would soon reach the U-turn to the China Business office along Annapolis. I opened my laptop and tried to get some work done. No Internet connection. Roger texted that ANC reported some flights canceled. But the airline’s Manila office said no flights were canceled.

By this time, my eyes kept snapping away from my laptop screen and clapping onto the fast rising floodwaters. I started to worry. I called my mom, my aunt, my office to ask for prayers that the water wouldn’t enter the car.

I inched forward, away from the rising water, but the water caught up in minutes...and then seconds. AM radio carried no news. A top government official was hard-selling his projects on a popular AM station as the cars stuck in traffic—and, as I found out, the rest of Manila—rapidly disappeared beneath water or, worse, mud.

By the time I accepted that I had to abandon the car, the water had reached my seat! I trudged through the flood, up the MRT, to my office building, scarcely remembering anything but for two dead cockroaches floating in the floodwater—and wondering if I was going to wake up from this watery nightmare any minute now.

When the driver went to get the car later in the afternoon, the water covered the entire cabin, save for the roof. Many of us were stranded in the office overnight. Those who decided to go home Saturday afternoon were stranded overnight on flooded streets. I soon discovered that my horror story was nothing compared to people who lost property, homes, and loved ones.

The heaviest rainfall Manila residents have ever known was caused by a tropical storm, not a typhoon. The total monthly rainfall for September was reached in the first six hours of Ketsana, according to the weather bureau.

The 455 millimeters of rainfall that inundated Luzon on 26 September 2009 broke 1967’s 331 -millimeter record. It was the worst Philippine flood in recorded history, so far.

Print ed: 09/09

 

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