Monday, June 23, 2008

Force Majeure Part 1 --

Day 1 --

It's a phrase I first encountered in real estate contracts and insurance policies. It's one of those sections that I skim over and take for granted.


Because I've always thought that such calamities listed under this clause were inconceivable.

And then Saturday and Sunday happened.

It started out like any typical rainy day in Iloilo -- with the street fronting our house flooding within a few hours of the rain. The power went off at around 6 in the morning. Neither of these were new to us -- we have always complained about the poor drainage system in our street and electrical service has never been reliable during these times.

And then the color of the water started turning brown and muddy. Our driver explained that this was no longer rain-flood water but water from the mountains. We watched the water rise up over the sidewalk and then to seep into the gate of our house.

Then the strong winds blew off several G.I. sheets off Papa's office warehouse. Such a thing has never happened before.

That's when it started to get a bit frightening. We called Papa on the cellphone and instructed the workers to cover the stuff in his office with tarpaulin.

For the people directly affected by the flood, they say it happened in a blink of an eye -- one minute, they were sitting down listening to the radio and the next minute, they were engulfed in waist-high/neck-high muddy waters.

Throughout the day, we received text messages and phone calls from people stranded and stuck on roofs -- asking to be rescued. We would call the radio stations who were in contact with rescue missions and give them the names and addresses of the people needing to be rescued.

But there were too many people and too few rescuers. As the afternoon progressed, the messages changed -- people were asking for food and water. By then, they had been stuck on their roofs for about 5 to 6 hours.

Outside of our house, we saw small motor boats loaded on trucks to be used for rescue. We saw people wearing life jackets wading through our street. Inside, over the radio, we listened to the mayor of one town crying -- overwhelmed at the damage in his town. Their hospital was flooded and all of their equipment destroyed. We listened to radio news reporters expressing frustration as they reported the events as they happened.

During the first night, I could feel my parents frustration and helplessness -- they had friends who had gone without food and water for the entire day. They actually tried to go to fetch their friends but they couldn't get past the flood -- not even with 4WD vehicles or a truck.

My cousin and his family were stranded in Pavia -- they had to evacuate their house and move to a makeshift nipa on higher ground. His brother tried to fetch them but couldn't get through either. They were eventually rescued early the next day, when the waters had subsided.

Over the radio, we heard that the Jaro Cathedral had been designated an evacuation area so my parents went out to get food and supplies for them. My mom had to beg the people from Makro to stay open for a little bit longer so she could buy noodles and other food for the evacuees.

That night, with the batteries of our cellphones slowly draining, we had to turn them off to conserve them for another day.

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