CEBU CITY — Typhon Odette reminds me of my youth. When Nitang smacked Cebu in the 1980s, people smiled and cared less. In 1991, Rufing ravaged Cebu and left millions in damage to properties and infrastructures, but no big deal. Yes, Nitang and Rufing were also super typhoons but nothing compared to Odette. The Dec. 16, 2021 super typhoon left billions in damages and millions of people still reeling the aftermath.
Unlike the past two typhoons that ravaged Cebu, Odette left me feeling helpless.
At the height of the strong winds, I was scared that our roof might be blown away on many occasions. I thought that another hour of wrath would leave us roofless. My worries subside as the gust of wind passed over our place.
Except for a few flown corrugated iron sheets, our home was okay.
However, the ultimate fear came 24 hours later. A neighbor’s house burst into flame.
We were about to eat late dinner when we heard SUNOG!! SUNOG!!. The flaming house was at my doorsteps and I witnessed how the swirling flames gutted the window curtains and the beams, I was scared to death.
My wife quickly scrambled for the bag she had prepared the night before that contains a few clothes and some essentials and secured our son while my daughters tugged our pets to safety. Me, I went for a pail of water, and with all my strength heaved the contents trying to get ceilings wet hoping that it would buy me some time to gather my wallet, some important belongings and documents.
Fortunately, neighbors came to our rescue and started scaling at the concrete walls and roof while the rest of the men helped fight the fire while other fetching waters.
Luckily, there are three artesian wells surrounding our home, and the men, some of whom did some carpentry works and petty errands for me, were quick to douse the flames.
This happened when the roads were unpassable because of the fallen VECO and Telecommunication posts, trees and branches that blocked the way. It was in total darkness and the only way to call the fire department was on foot.
I thought we really gonna end up homeless for Christmas and the New Year. But thanks to our neighbors, the fire was contained within minutes.
It still gives me shivers as I think about it and wonders what has become of us if not for the quick response of our neighbors. Indeed Odette left me a harrowing experience that would always give me nightmares.
Actually, the impact and the damages could have been minimized, if the government officials anticipated what would happen.
PAG-ASA had already forecasted Odette was on the direct path to Cebu and its strength would even reach Category 5 (Yolanda level). Yet, they underestimated Odette.
A few precautions, such as pruning tree branches and securing and fortifying electric and telecommunications poles could have minimized the effect of the typhoon.
However, nobody took the initiative of telling people what to do, except on telling them to stock food and water and yes, gas – all they warned was to be safe and to go to evacuation centers if needed.
And on the day after, nothing. Instead of sending PROBE to clear the roads from fallen trees, branches and other debris to make it passable, all the sitting mayor did was to lounge at a posh hotel and “did some rounds” for photo opportunities.
One rumor I heard was that an influential family had to beg for the release of a tanker full of diesel oil, which the mayor ceased for suspected hoarding. After some appeals and negotiations, the tanker was released since its intention is to be used to fuel generator sets for relief operations.
The negotiation was done at the hotel and not at his office at the city hall.
Taking advantage of this time of crisis.
Cebu is in a state of calamity. The government is empowered to supervise or take over situations that is a disadvantage to the people.
One of the major concerns that the Cebuanos badly needed this time is drinking water. People can live without taking a bath for months but not a day without drinking water.
Only a few water refilling stations were in operations since Friday. All of which were operating on generator sets.
Since generator sets operate on fuel, naturally, refilling stations had to increase the price per 20 liters bottle. I bought mine at P50 per bottle. Some, I heard were selling at P100.
Worse, the long queues. We need to endure long lines and will have to wait additional hours when gensets ran out of fuel or if they are restocking waters.
Buying fuel is also a burden to the buyers.
Only a few gasoline stations are in operations since only those under the franchise of the three big companies have gensets, thus you can see long lines of cars, motorcycles and foot traffic lining to buy gasoline/diesel.
Now here is the problem as I actually witnessed, some buyers brought so many gallons with them, that when it comes to your turn, the pump had already dried out.
As for some private vehicles, I saw some had