Death toll rising from non-stop rains

Jaime Laude - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The number of fatalities in the widespread flooding and landslides caused by days of heavy rain over large areas of Mindanao increased to 23 yesterday with nine still missing, regional disaster and military reports said.

Office of Civil Defense (OCD) regional director Loreto Rirao said Compostela Valley recorded five dead while Davao Oriental has eight.

In Davao Oriental, Rirao said six people perished in a landslide while two others from Barangay Marayag, Lupon town drowned after being swept away by rampaging floodwaters.

Six people were buried in a landslide on the island province of Dinagat, while three others drowned in nearby areas, OCD regional official John Lenwayan reported.

“Major rivers overflowed, causing people to drown in areas still recovering from Typhoon Pablo,” OCD operations officer Franz Irag said. Typhoon Pablo hit Mindanao in December 2012.

“Many of the victims had not managed to rebuild and were staying in temporary shelters when they were hit by fresh flooding,” he said.

The bad weather also forced more than 194,000 people to flee their homes, Irag and Lenwayan said.

The two officials said the rains started abating on Monday and some of those who took refuge in government-run shelters were returning to their homes.

As of yesterday, Rirao also reported seven people still missing while 34 others were injured.

The widespread flooding and landslides also affected 31,062 families or 152,276 people in the region’s 16 affected towns, two cities and 100 barangays.

They are now staying in and outside 92 evacuation centers while waiting for the weather to improve and for flooding to subside, Rirao added.

Heavy rains over the weekend also forced more than 1,700 families to evacuate in Cagayan de Oro City.

In the Caraga region, OCD regional director Liza Masa said the seven fatalities came from Agusan del Sur and Diganat Island.

Masa said most of the fatalities drowned after being swept away by floodwaters.

The towns of Sta. Josefa, Sibagat and Butuan City are now under a state of calamity.

In Western Mindanao, military reports showed three people also perished in the flooding caused by days of heavy rain over Zamboanga del Sur and Zamboanga del Norte.

The prevailing severe weather system also resulted in a storm surge that destroyed houses in Jolo, Sulu.

In Barangay Busbus, the storm surge destroyed 14 houses, while 41 houses in Barangay Tulay, 72 houses in the Chinese Pier and one in Barangay Takut-Takut were also destroyed.

The weekend floods and torrential rains also destroyed infrastructure, including six bridges that collapsed in Davao Oriental.

The town of Cateel, one of the towns badly affected by Typhoon Pablo in 2012, became isolated after two bridges leading to the town collapsed due to flashfloods.

The town of Caraga was also isolated with the collapse of two bridges in barangays San Jose and Baogo.

The towns of Manay, Baganga, Taragona and others could not be reached due to collapsed bridges and impassable roads.

At least four towns in Davao Oriental were also placed under a state of calamity because of the massive floods, particularly in Panabo City, and the towns of Carmen, Tagum City and Asuncion.

Public Works and Highways regional director Mariano Alquiza said several major roads were blocked by landslides in Compostela Valley, among them the sections of Montevista-Mati Boundary Road in Araibo, Liboton, and the highway going to Davao Oriental.

Alquiza also reported that some roads in the Caraga and Davao regions were cut off due to landslides, road slips, and floods.

Flights have been cancelled from Manila to Cagayan de Oro City as well as Tacloban, Naga and Catarman due to the bad weather.

In Misamis Oriental, all flights were cancelled and classes has been suspended.

Relief and rescue agencies led by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Philippine Navy began delivering food supplies to Davao Oriental, particularly in the villages isolated by heavy floods.

Coast Guard regional commander Commodore George Ursabia said they are focusing their efforts in Davao Oriental while the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC) is attending to Davao del Norte and Compostela Valley.

Ursabia said that they brought relief goods to the towns of Baganga, Cateel and Boston that were isolated by floods.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has distributed 23,442 food packs worth P5.9 million to Davao Oriental and Davao del Norte, while P272,023 worth of relief goods were distributed by local officials in the Caraga region.

The DSWD said some 220 evacuation centers remain open in the affected regions to provide temporary shelter to 20,005 families, while 5,086 families outside the evacuation centers are also being given relief assistance.

The DSWD regional field office reported that 198 houses were damaged in Davao Oriental while 18 were destroyed in Compostela Valley.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has activated its Quick Reaction Team to determine the number of workers for emergency employment who were displaced by floods and landslides in the region.

The local government of Dinagat, for its part, offered cash assistance to each of the families affected by the flooding.

The Mindanao floods occurred amid an international rehabilitation effort for areas destroyed by Super Typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan in November last year. Yolanda left at least 7,986 people dead or missing across central Philippines, according to a running government tally. Bodies are still being recovered from the rubble.

State weather forecasters said the amount of rain that fell over Mindanao and the Visayas over the weekend has surpassed the monthly average rainfall.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said the prevailing low-pressure area over the region will continue to dump rains in the next few days.

PAGASA weather forecaster Chris Perez said the areas which have surpassed their average rainfall for January include the areas of Davao; Hinatuan; Surigao; Lumbia; Dipolog; Butuan; Tacloban, Leyte; Tagbilaran, Bohol; Mactan, Cebu and Maasin, Leyte.

The areas of Malaybalay, Bukidnon; Borongan, Eastern Samar and Catarman, Northern Samar are close to breaching their average rainfall for this month, Perez said.

Perez added the weather prediction models used by PAGASA showed two possible scenarios for the low-pressure area.

One scenario showed the low-pressure area will remain almost stationary and will continue to affect the Visayas and Mindanao until Friday before moving westward toward the West Philippine Sea, where it is likely to intensify into a tropical depression.

The other scenario showed the low-pressure area will remain almost stationary over the Visayas and Mindanao until Friday but will move east toward Eastern Visayas.

Perez said rainy weather will persist over the eastern section of the Visayas and Mindanao and the Bicol region in the next two to three days.

PAGASA warned residents of Davao, Compostela Valley, Surigao, Bukidnon, Misamis, Dinagat, Leyte, Samar, Bohol, Cebu, Masbate, Sorsogon, Albay, Catanduanes and Camarines of more floods and landslides.

Rough to very rough sea conditions will also continue to affect the seaboards of Luzon and the Visayas. – Edith Regalado, Ben Serrano, Roel Pareño, Mayen Jaymalin, Gerry Lee-Gorit, Rudy Santos, Evelyn Macairan, Helen Flores, Rainier Allan Ronda

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