Zamboanga City in state of calamity as thousands evacuate due to heavy rains

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Zamboanga City is in a state of calamity Thursday due to heavy rains earlier this week that left five dead, one missing, and forced the evacuation of thousands of families from their homes, local officials said Thursday.

Zamboanga City (CNN Philippines, October 19) — Zamboanga City is in a state of calamity due to heavy rains earlier this week that left five dead, one missing, and forced the evacuation of thousands of families from their homes, local officials said Thursday.

The Zamboanga City Council said state of calamity was based on the recommendation of the city's disaster risk reduction and management office late Wednesday. A state of calamity will allow the quick release of funds needed for relief and rehabilitation.

Two weather systems on either flanks of the Philippine archipelago have been dumping heavy rain in several provinces all over the country. Typhoon Paolo is hovering over the Philippine Sea in the east and is strengthening despite not making landfall, while there is a low pressure area over the South China Sea in the west, PAGASA said.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development here said five were reported dead and more than 2,000 families in both coasts of the Zamboanga Peninsula have have been evacuated by heavy rains and floods since October 15. The police here added one person by the name of Antonio Cellado, 40, has been missing.

One-third of Zamboanga City's more than 862,000 residents were without water since Tuesday, when heavy rain triggered an erosion and pushed a boulder into the entrance of the water filter of Primewater, a major water supplier, forcing it  to cease operations, the Zamboanga City Water District (ZCWD) spokesperson Edgar Baños said.

The ZCWD implemented a water-rationing scheme early Thursday. If weather improves, Primewater said it may be able to resume regular supply to the city.

Typhoon Paolo entered the Philippines as a tropical storm on Monday and traveling at a speed of 15 kph, is expected to leave the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR) this coming Sunday.

Paolo was last located at 945 kilometers east of Infanta, Quezon at 10 a.m. Thursday. The low pressure area in the Philippines' western flank was last spotted at 150 km north of Puerto Princesa City, Palawan.

The two weather systems will continue to bring widespread rains and thunderstorms in the areas of Palawan, Bicol region, Visayas, Caraga, Northern Mindanao, Zamboanga Peninsula, and the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, PAGASA said.

Meanwhile in the province of Negros Oriental, acting governor Edward Mark Macias declared the suspension of classes from pre-school to the high school, both in private and public schools, due to the heavy rain which caused rivers to overflow and rendered some roads impassable in the province.

This comes as government officials discuss the needs of disaster-prone areas in the Philippines.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said the Philippines is working with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in an insurance scheme that will help disaster-prone communities bounce back from the adverse effects of natural disasters and climate change, citing Mindanao, where Zamboanga is located, as an example.

"As you know, [in Mindanao] we never had typhoons there. We had typhoons once every 70 years in Mindanao," Dominguez said.

"However, now we are observing that with climate change, the typhoons seem to be forming further south in the Pacific Ocean, and which brings northern Mindanao directly in the path of the typhoons," he said, speaking in an October 13 forum in Washington, D.C.

The insurance program, Parametric Insurance Pilot, is on a pilot test for one year starting July 28, 2017 on 25 disaster-prone cities.

CNN Philippines' Dumaguete-based correspondent Roy Bustillo contributed to this report.