In September 2009, the Marikina River swelled to a record level of 23 meters from Ondoy's epic rain, driving three-meter floods into surrounding communities, trapping and killing hundreds in their homes.
The city is apparently better prepared in 2011.
After Storm Falcon caused the same river to rise to over 18 meters deep and spill water into streets, no one has been reported killed or missing in Marikina.
Marikina City police head Senior Superintendent Gabriel Lopez attributed the zero-casualty feat during this week's floods to the preventive evacuation efforts implemented by the local government, a lesson learned from the 2009 flood.
"May rescue units tayo dito na handa sa ganitong mga sitwasyon [We have rescue units that are prepared for these kinds of situation]," Lopez told GMA News.
The Marikina City government sounded the third alarm Friday afternoon after the water level breached the 17-meter mark. Some 7,000 residents initially volunteered to leave their homes.
Authorities said a preventive evacuation is carried out once water level reaches 16 meters. At 17 meters, residents are advised to voluntarily leave their homes. And at 18 meters, a forced evacuation is set in motion.
Lopez said disaster relief operations are currently in "full force" as 6x6 trucks and a number of rubber boats are ready to help people needing rescue and assistance.
The military and police have likewise fielded their personnel to assist in the rescue and relief efforts.
Water in river goes down
The water level in the river has continuously been dropping after peaking at 18.2 meters late Friday night. By 8:54 a.m. of Saturday, the water level was recorded at 17.2 meters and further went down to 16.5 meters by noontime.
Still, the more than 25,000 evacuees taking refuge inside 16 schools and covered courts that were converted into evacuation centers are still not allowed to troop back to their homes.
Authorities said the affected residents would only be allowed to return to their homes once the water level drops to 15 meters.
"May trauma ka na kasi. Kahit konting ulan lang gusto, mo na lumipat kagad," said one of the evacuees staying inside an evacuation center, reliving memories of Ondoy's rampage from 2009.
As of Saturday noon, state weather forecaster Aldzcar Aurelio said Falcon continued to move away from the Philippines and toward Japan. Falcon is currently hovering over the area near Taiwan and China, he added.
Despite Falcon's departure, Aurelio warned of more rains, especially in the northern and central parts of Luzon, due to the southwest monsoon enhanced by Falcon. — LBG/HS, GMA News
Forced evacuation of Marikina residents carried out
MANILA, Philippines (6th UPDATE) - The local government of Marikina implemented a mandatory evacuation of residents near the Marikina River on Friday after its water level rose past dangerous levels.
Residents in barangays Tumana and Malanday started evacuating Friday morning after the river's water level rose to 16.1 meters.
Officials blamed the rapid rise of the river to objects blocking its flow downstream.
More than 10,000 people are now in evacuation centers, local officials said.
Marikina Mayor Del De Guzman expects more people to be brought to safety if the river continues to rise.
The river's water level reached 18.7 meters as of 11:30 p.m. Friday, according to ABS-CBN's Jenny Reyes, quoting city disaster management officials.
It went down to 17.8 at around 5 a.m., Saturday, reported Charlie Mendoza, dzMM correspondent.
Alert level 3 has already been hoisted on communities near the river.
Paul Edward Sison, chief of the Marikina Public Information Office, said the evacuation centers are the Nangka Elementary School, the Malanday Elementary School, the Concepcion Elementary School, Bulelak covered court, and the H. Bautista Elementary School.
"Ang Tanong High School ay kasalukuyang inihahanda na rin upang maging evacuation center ng mga residente ng Brgy. Tanong kung sakaling magpapatuloy ang pagtaas ng tubig sa Marikina River na maaring magdulot ng pagbaha sa ibang lugar sa lungsod," Sison said in a press statement.
He said relief operations started Thursday night. These include distribution of food and medical aid.
"Kasalukuyan pa ring naka-alerto ang mga lokal na opisyal ng Marikina upang mapag-ibayo ang pagbabantay sa sitwasyon at makapagbigay ng gabay sa bumubuo ng Marikina City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council para sa monitoring, evacuation, relief operations para sa mga residente," Sison added.
He said people can call the city government's public information hotline 646-6451.
Marikina Vice-Mayor Jose Cadiz earlier said forced evacuation of all residents will be implemented once the river reaches 17 meters. He said evacuation procedures are going smoothly as residents are reminded of the effects of tropical storm "Ondoy" in 2009.
"The bad experience of Ondoy makes it easier for them to compel people. People are voluntarily leaving for fear of the flood," ABS-CBN correspondent Jorge Cariño said in an ANC report.
Marikina was one of the hardest-hit cities when Ondoy submerged Metro Manila and surrounding provinces under floodwaters on September 26, 2009. At least 70 people were killed after floods hit Provident Village, Barangay Tumana, Barangay Nangka, Fortune and Barangka. - with reports from Jenny Reyes, ABS-CBN News; ANC