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On 29 November 2004, flash floods swept through Infanta, Real and General Nakar in Quezon Province. Residents talk about how cold, turbulent waters swelled to heights of 15-20 feet and swept through their barangays in a span of three hours. The mud and logs that accompanied the flood destroyed rice fields, homes and everything in its path. With the only road leading into the area blocked by landslides, Infanta was isolated for nearly a week. With no electricity, communications, drinking water, or food residents had to rely on relief to be brought in by air, weather permitting. Access by sea was dangerous at best. Inclement weather made for big waves and the coastline was blocked by tons of logs that ended their journey along the kilometers of shoreline.
“Kung walang mga troso, ‘di ganoon kalaki ang tubig.” (If there were no logs, the flood would not have been that big). This was a common sentiment amongst the people of Infanta. Survivors tell a common tale of having to completely disrobe so as not to be weighed down and drowned by their mud-laden clothes; of crawling their way to rooftops or tree branches atop perilous floating logs; of punching holes through ceilings to escape rising flood waters; of swimming in turbulent waters as torpedo-like logs battered them; and, of waiting for daybreak atop whatever safety they could find only to find their homes completely washed away or buried in mud.
Thousands became homeless. Schools would not re-opened until mid-January. Most of Infanta’s residents were left with no means to generate income. The majority of agricultural land and irrigation canals remain buried in mud rendering them useless. De-siltation is ongoing and is emptying into the estuaries destroying marine life and fishing areas. Housing is a problem. Most of those affected are uncertain of what prospects they have for relocation or for housing materials.
As the first quarter of 2005 draws to an end, the biggest challenge facing relief organizations, government and NGOs is how to keep up the momentum for giving as the relief phase shifts into rehabilation and recovery. Food security is the biggest problem as the residents of Infanta have had their entire livelihoods washed out by the flood.