BUTUAN CITY, Philippines – Over 4,000 people still staying in various evacuation centers in this city due to Tropical Storm Seniang disclosed yesterday that they had no food, water and power supply for three days, prompting them to vent their ire through social media.
Evacuees at the Agusan National High School here said they experienced lack of food, water and electricity from Dec. 28 to 31.
Jun Ytem, a resident of Barangay Golden Ribbon, slammed Butuan City Mayor Ferdinand Amante Jr., who he said did not even show up at the evacuation center to console the evacuees who lost their homes and properties due to heavy flooding.
“In our first three days at the evacuation center when we didn’t have water supply, we used floodwaters to wash our hands and to clean toilets. There were even times that we used it for bathing,” Ytem said.
“Worse, we also suffered hunger because relief goods were delivered late, plus there was also no power supply,” he added.
He said that unlike Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte who inspects the condition of evacuees, local officials were not seen visiting evacuation centers in Butuan City.
Another evacuee, Buddy Samonte from Barangay Buhangin, said he had to use rainwater to wash clothes and dishes.
Both Ytem and Samonte said that they had to cook and prepare their own food in the center, so they also had to buy their own firewood.
Meanwhile, Rizell Calabio, another evacuee, complained that insufficient food was given to her and her relatives.
Calabio said they were only given five packs of instant noodles, five small canned sardines and five sachets of coffee.
Calabio’s sentiments were echoed by her fellow evacuees Melly Campos and Maritess Belano.
“We were forced to make rice porridge and divide the small sachet of coffee into three servings that we could no longer taste it,” Calabio said.
Complaints on social media
Evacuees have aired their complaints on social media in an effort to draw attention to their miserable plight.
The evacuees posted their complaints on the Facebook account of Butuan Global Forum Inc.
But the non-government organization Butuan Global Forum Inc. said that the statements posted on its Facebook account were only the opinions of the complainants.
It said the group’s Facebook account is a forum on the situation of Butuanons from around the world.
Official death toll still at 54
The official death toll from Seniang in the Visayas and Mindanao has remained at 54 even as the number of typhoon-related deaths is nearing the 70 mark, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).
As of yesterday, reports from the regional offices of the Office of Civil Defense have recorded 39 deaths in Eastern Samar and Leyte, mostly due to landslides.
Nineteen deaths were also recorded in Central Visayas while one was reported to have drowned in Antique at the height of the storm.
The NDRRMC reported that three persons died in Northern Mindanao – two in Bukidnon, and one from Misamis Oriental; two in Davao region – Compostela Valley; two from Caraga; and one each from Butuan City and Agusan del Norte.
When combined, the total death count from Seniang as of yesterday afternoon has risen to 68.
The NDRRMC also reported that seven persons are still missing from widespread flooding, series of landslides and maritime disasters in the storm-affected regions in the Visayas, Mindanao and Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan) region.
Recording 37 storm-related incidents, the NDRRMC also reported that 105,223 families or 486,894 people were affected by Seniang, which also destroyed some P5 million worth of agricultural crops in Northern Mindanao alone, including Agusan del Sur, Misamis Oriental and Compostela Valley.
The massive storm devastation was largely blamed on the complacency of national and local disaster officials apparently caught unprepared as Seniang was categorized by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration as a mere tropical depression.
Mayor Stephany Uy-Tan of Catbalogan, Eastern, Samar said her city was not even under any storm signal and there were no disaster warnings issued.
For his part, Misamis Oriental Gov. Bambi Emano said casualties could have been avoided had they been advised properly.
But NDRRMC executive director and Office of Civil Defense (OCD) administrator Alexander Pama said information on the possible disastrous effects of Seniang was forwarded to regional and provincial officials and local government units through the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).
“That comes as a surprise to me if that’s her claim. But I haven’t talked to Mayor Uy-Tan so I’d like to get confirmation if indeed they did not receive any warning,” Pama said in a radio interview yesterday.
Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II also clarified earlier that disaster warnings were issued amid criticisms that the national government was ill-prepared for Seniang. – With Jaime Laude