EMMIE V. ABADILLA
I survived floods alone, deep in the wilderness overseas and in local urban jungles.
I escaped flash floods in the oldest rainforest on earth, in Taman Negara, Malaysia. Same way I forged through 8 kilometers of dark, deluged roads from Monumento, Caloocan to Juan Luna, Manila.
My street sinks in chest-deep floods during typhoons. I have to swim alongside rats, snakes and heaven knows what else if I’m not home before the water rises.
If you live, work and play in flood-prone sites like me, know the risks beforehand. Monitor forecasts. Don’t go out unless you have to. If I can avoid stranding, contracting water-borne ailments or drowning, I’ll just hunker down at home during heavy rains.
But in case I need to evacuate, I’ve pre-assembled my own survival backpack.
A pocket-sized tin box holds my first aid kit – antiseptic, medicines, plastic strips, gauze, fishing line/floss (for securing things), strike-anywhere matches dipped in candlewax for waterproofing, Swiss knife, whistle (for alerting rescuers), glue stick (for sealant/emergency repairs), candle, a survival blanket – a silver foil vapor-barrier sheet the size of a matchbox when folded.
I keep a hand-cranked LED flashlight, so I won’t need batteries, the largest-sized black bin liner/trash bags for improvised raincoat, ground pad and tent-shelter.
My provisions consist of canned food with lift-tabs for easy opening, enough bottled water (1 liter/day), Life Straw plastic tube capable of filtering 1,000 liters should I have no recourse but drink contaminated water. You can also use tincture of iodine to purify water (5-10 drops/liter).
Ziplock bags protect my vital documents, cellphones (with emergency numbers, radio and flashlight functions), their fully-charged batteries and mobile chargers.
Knowing floods can rise incredibly fast, I’m ready to move anytime.
However, it’s dangerous to walk in moving waters. Use a stick to feel along your way. Stay in the middle of the road, away from trees, objects or structure likely to collapse, trap or crush you. Avoid eddies. They indicate manholes and drains. You’ll drown if you get sucked in. Avoid loose or hanging wires. You can get electrocuted.
If you are swept empty-handed in deep, fast-rising waters, don’t panic. Use your clothes – pants, shirt, tank tops, sundress or tote bag as flotation devices.
Kick off your shoes and discard anything that weighs you down while treading water. Remove your pants, tie off the ends of each leg, close the waist and zipper. Squeeze out excess water, wave the pants over your head to trap air and knot off the waist area. Using your pants as a buoy, take off your shirt and do the same thing.
Remember the survivor’s Rule of Threes. You can live for 3 minutes without air, 3 hours without shelter, 3 days without water.
Of course, some proved to be exceptions, holding up to a week exposed to the elements, 10 days without water, two weeks sans food, lapping up dew and eating their clothes.
It wouldn’t come to that, I hope.