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City: Stampede report not true

(The Freeman) - January 18, 2016 - 9:00am

CEBU, Philippines - The Cebu City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council has belied reports that a stampede happened along Ge-neral Maxilom Avenue near a popular entertainment complex after the Sinulog Grand parade Sunday night.

What happened, said CCDRRMC chairman and City Councilor David Tumulak, was that the area was just overflowing with revelers, as people always converge there for a street party.

“I can’t call it a stampede. But the area was overfilled with people. They were just dancing and jumping,” he said, adding that there is stampede if people are “uncontrollable and frightened.”

Tumulak said he was in the area at 8 p.m., when people converged there immediately after the grand parade, to monitor the place, as it is a known haunt for partygoers, and left only at 3 a.m. yesterday.

The area, he said, is also where people traverse in going to the uptown or downtown areas of the city.

It was a rowdy crowd, however, with ambulances that were supposed to be there to respond to emergencies ended up being damaged.

“Ilang gihugaw-hugawan ang ambulance. They…pound(ed) on the vehicle(s) and caused dents. Three of our ambulance were damaged,” Tumulak said.

Immediately after the last contingent performed at the Sinulog grandstand and the cordon was removed, partygoers began occupying General Maxilom  Avenue.

The crowd was mostly young people who danced, sang, and shouted “Pit Senyor” to every people they met.

There were also those who sprayed water using water guns and poured beer and water on people, while there were those who splashed colorful body paints on others.

Past 11 p.m., journalists rushed to the area after pictures of people who were “victims” of the supposed “stampede” and were being brought to the hospital went viral online. The journalists ended up being sprayed with water and beer, instead.

A radio reporter was splashed with paint on her right cheek by partygoers while a few print journalists got wet with water and beer.

There were likewise people who offered free hug and a kiss to strangers, while another partygoer was seen bringing a placard asking people to kiss him.

Policemen who were around to secure the area said the crowd was simply in a festive mood and that no stampede ever occurred.

Despite the huge crowd, with the number of people exceeding even those in last year’s Sinulog, Tumulak said this year’s crowd control was better than in 2015.

“I really appreciate the…store owners and bar owners since I saw more security (personnel they deployed).  There were bouncers maintaining peace and order. I also saw medical teams, and they (establishment owners) installed CCTVs,” he said.

He said, though, that for next year, authorities should strictly enforce regulations against street parties for the safety of all revelers.

“Daghan pa gyud ang i-improve in terms of crowd control,” he said, although he admitted that the city and law enforcers cannot stop people from going to areas where there is a party.

“Ang mga tawo maoy moadto anang mga lugara. Mao man na ilang gusto kay kun dili nila gusto, mo-avoid nalang sila. It’s their choice. Kun dili mo gusto masakitan, avoid the area na lang gyud,” he said.

The Police Regional Office-7 has deployed more than 4,500 personnel, including along General Maxilom Avenue, to manage the estimated 3.2 million people who gathered along the carousel route to witness the Sinulog Grand parade.

PRO-7 director Manuel Gaerlan also said yesterday that he received no reports of a stampede from his men, adding that due to “the timely interventions of the police, the challenges were contained.”

“No stampede. There (were) intoxicated individuals…. Some showed unruly behavior, (but) we were able to contain (them),” he said.

Gaerlan said revelers behaved themselves every time they see a patrol car with its blinkers on and police officers on the road.

Asked if he would recommend a total liquor ban during the Sinulog to ensure the crowd is better-behaved, he said “no,” saying merrymaking during a fiesta celebration is a Filipino tradition.  

“Tradition na kasi natin, as much as possible we don’t want that to happen,” Gaerlan added.

The regional director, though, noticed “lack of leadership” among his junior officers on the field, adding that he sometimes had to call the police officials’ attention while he made the rounds along the carousel route.

“Kulang ng kunti ng supervision.  I am not satisfied with our junior officers,” he said.

At the City Hall, Tumulak said the city’s Emergency Response Service had responded to numerous medical-related emergencies from 6 a.m. last Sunday to 6 a.m. yesterday, particularly 126 cases of loss of consciousness, 74 trauma cases), 24 vehicular accidents, 19 cases of difficulty in breathing, and eight cases of dizziness, among others.

“Kadaghanan gyud kay tungod sa kakapoy sa Sinulog. Apil gani ang mga dancers themselves atong girespondehan. Naay mga nahubog ug ang mga spectators atong gitabangan,” Tumulak said.  — /RHM (FREEMAN)

ACIRC AREA AT THE CITY HALL CEBU CITY DISASTER RISK REDUCTION AND MANAGEMENT COUNCIL CITY COUNCILOR DAVID TUMULAK CROWD EMERGENCY RESPONSE SERVICE PEOPLE SINULOG SINULOG GRAND TUMULAK
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