Lest We Forget: What flooding was like in PH back in the day

It was the year 1972 — long before one of the greatest typhoons to date, Typhoon Yolanda, ever made a landfall in the Philippines. More than 700 people died due to the immense flooding caused by four consecutive typhoons, namely, Edeng, Gloring, Isang, and Huaning, hitting parts of Luzon for around a month. For the first time in history, the country saw what would be one of the most serious and deadly disasters known to man, “The Great Philippine Floods of 1972”.

Calm Before the Storm

Flooding in the early 1900s, although not non-existent, was considered to be quite tolerable back then. During the rainy season, the streets of Quiapo, Santa Cruz, and Tondo, among others, reached up to an ankle or worse, only up to knee-level. This wasn’t a problem in terms of transportation even when motorized vehicles became prominent in the 1930’s, as supplies and goods were able to reach those who are flooded with not much of a difficulty. Canals and sewages were also functional and excess water flow in nearby waters such as Manila Bay were well-constricted.

Then came July 1972. Rains and increasingly alarming floods were already observed by the end of June that year, but beginning that very month, intermittent heavy rains fell unstoppably which created local flooding in Northern and Central Luzon. In a matter of days stretching to more than a month, things went out of hand.

Photo courtesy of Top Gear

Rains, Floods, and Aftermaths

Continuous landfall of typhoons and tropical depressions succeeding Typhoon Gloring (internationally known as Typhoon Rita) in early July eventually brought the flooding to a neck-deep height. Transportation via land to northern Luzon was halted, water levels reached rooftops of residential houses in some areas, and there were shortages in medicines, food, and drinking water. Ninety percent of Manila was submerged underwater, while provinces Pampanga and Tarlac were almost entirely flooded after also experiencing a series of dam and dike failures.

Photo courtesy of Top Gear

In order to deliver food and emergency supplies to those affected, improvised bancas (Philippine canoe) were widely used to cross areas. No light or small vehicles were able to run; only buses and large trucks were used as transportation in some parts of Manila. This continued on for roughly six weeks.

As the typhoons began to calm down, the flooding also began to dry out. Flooded areas were beginning to