Floods kill dozens, leave hundreds missing

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Saturday, December 17, 2011

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (2nd update 5:18 p.m.) – Floods triggered by Tropical Storm Sendong (international name: Washi) killed more than 200, left hundreds missing, and displaced thousands of residents here Saturday.

Areas submerged by floods include Barangays Puntod, Macabalan, Lapasan, villages within the downtown area, and Vamenta Subdivision in Barra, Opol, Misamis Oriental.

Some of the fatalities were identified as Roel Banawa, 24, Sonny Belorio and his live-in partner Gavina, 57; Miguelito Moring, 49, and his wife Cornelia and children Michael, 23, and Cherry, 25; Geraldine Bayron and her five children.


Victims were mostly from Isla de Oro, Cala-Cala and Barangays Consolacion, Macasandig, Kauswagan, Carmen, Canitoan, Iponan, and Balulang.

The two children of Roel Medrano from Isla de Oro also died, prompting him to say he wanted to commit suicide because of what happened.

“I wasn’t able to hold them tightly because of the strong current. I stayed underneath the water for five minutes trying to look for them,” Medrano said.

Philippines Storm
CAGAYAN DE ORO. A resident wades through a flooded street with an electric fan following a flash flood that inundated Cagayan de Oro city, Saturday. (AP)

Other fatalities remain unidentified as of this posting Saturday.

Sendong, arguably the deadliest cyclone to hit the Philippines in 2011, cut through the provinces in Northeastern Mindanao last Friday, destroying farm lands, houses, toppling power and communication lines, and triggering flashfloods and landslides in the area.

At the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), airlines cancelled at least 14 flights bound Cagayan de Oro, Dumaguete City, Catarman (Northern Samar), and Virac (Catanduanes) due to inclement weather in these areas, a report from the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) showed.

At the height of Sendong’s onslaught on Friday, the Cagayan de Oro river reportedly overflowed, sending the residents to their roofs or troop to the nearest evacuation centers for safety.

The flashfloods caught the residents by surprise since they were asleep, Benito Ramos, Executive Director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said in an interview in Manila.

"The flooding occurred around 2:30 a.m while the people were sleeping. It (massive rains) caused the silted river system to overflow," Ramos said.

In Iponan, the strong flow of water began to seep inside the vicinities of several subdivisions in the area around 5 a.m. Saturday.

High tide also aggravated floods in areas near rivers. In Barangay Consolacion, which is near the Cagayan de Oro River, residents scampered to higher grounds when strong currents swept some of the houses away.

A mother and her three children were seen on top of their house near the Carmen Bridge calling for help at around 12 midnight Saturday.

Seconds after they were rescued, their house was carried by the strong current.

The rains brought by Sendong started at 6 p.m. Friday night and lasted until 2 a.m. Saturday.

Philippines Storm
CAGAYAN DE ORO. Volunteers use rubber a boat to ferry residents to safer grounds following a flash flood that inundated Cagayan de Oro city Saturday. (AP)

Residents living near rivers and creeks have started to evacuate as early as 11 p.m. Some of them stayed underneath the newly constructed flyover along Recto Avenue while some spent the night outside Gaisano City Mall in Corrales St.

Some residents are staying at the two evacuation centers at the City Central School in Velez St. and at the West Central School in Barangay Carmen.

Some 20,000 people are currently taking shelter in evacuation centers in the city, according to Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez.

Power and water connections have also been cut off.

Teams from the City Government, private companies, and the 4th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army started their rescue operations at around 10 p.m. Friday, focusing initially on residents who stayed on top of their roofs, especially in Isla de Oro, Macasandig, and Barangay Consolacion.

Mayor Vicente Emano said teams found it difficult to rescue residents in heavily flooded areas Friday night due to the city-wide blackout.

As of 12 noon Saturday, the Cagayan Electric Power and Light Company (Cepalco) has yet to restore power connections while the Cagayan de Oro Water District (COWD) said it is still undertaking disinfection procedures of its reservoirs.

Ladel Sagrado, the COWD's public relations division manager, said the disinfection procedure intends to ensure water cleanliness and potability.

She also advised residents that once water connections are restored, they should boil tap water first before drinking.

Sagrado said among the areas in the city with available water supply are Gusa, Tablon, Agusan, and Bugo.

The pipe bridge of Rio Verde in Taguanao was also damaged, cutting off water supply in the western side of the city.

In Baungon town in Bukidnon, at least 12 persons have been confirmed dead and hundreds went missing while the road from Cagayan de Oro City to Talakag in Bukidnon is impassable due to landslide.

The Kabula Bridge in Baungon was also damaged.

The City Government has started distributing relief goods to the flood victims along with other private agencies while Xavier University had also set up a relief center and an information desk, especially for its employees and students who were affected by the calamity.

In Manila, Social Welfare and Development Secretary Corazon "Dinky" Soliman assured enough relief supplies to be distributed to affected communities.

Relief goods will be turned over to the local government units (LGUs) as social welfare and development teams are on alert to monitor hazard-prone areas, especially those living along the coasts, she said.

A standby fund worth P300 million will also be released to ensure delivery of assistance to storm victims.

Emano said in a radio interview that the City Government was unable to expect the speed and enormity of Sendong.

“I had tried to seek help and so far I already got P1 million,” he said as he called for assistance from those who may want to extend help.

“We will do what we can to help those affected,” Emano said.

As of 12:30 p.m., the Regional Disaster Coordinating Council is still having a meeting to assess the extent of the damage and the possible assistance that can be provided to the victims.

Meanwhile, Tropical storm Sendong left five persons dead in the Davao Region where it first made a landfall on Friday.

A landslide struck the gold-rush area of Mt. Diwata in Monkayo, Compostela Valley, killing Rosita dela Peña, 57, Nasser Tuan, 6; Rakima Tuan, 4; Asliya Tuan, 14; and Jolito Lumactod, 28.

The landslide struck around 4 p.m. Friday at Purok 21 in Barangay Mt. Diwata and destroyed the residence of the victims.

Sendong death toll may still go up

In Manila, Benito Ramos, Executive Director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said that the death toll may still go up, especially that around 260 people remain unaccounted for in Iligan City alone.

"We expect the death toll to go up because the mechanized infantry battalions have reported that more bodies were found," he told state-run Radyo ng Bayan on Saturday.

Of the confirmed fatalities, Ramos said 75 are from Iligan City, where Mayor Lawrence Cruz declared a state of calamity so that emergency funds can be used in the rehabilitation of badly-affected areas.

AFP Western Mindanao Command spokesman Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang confirmed the number of fatalities, adding that 15 have been rescued at sea and 250 remain missing.

Ninety-seven people, meanwhile, died in Cagayan de Oro City based on figures from the AFP Eastern Mindanao Command spokesman Col. Leopold Galon.

He said that fatalities came from the Misamis Oriental and Cagayan de Oro City areas. At least 125 person others are missing and subject to search and rescue efforts.

Citing reports from the field, Galon said an estimated 2,000 others were rescued.

Military trucks, boats, helicopters and ground troops have been deployed in the two areas for search and rescue operations.

Authorities expect more bodies to be retrieved in the western villages of Carmen and Consolacion, which are near the Cagayan de Oro river.

The NDRRMC's Ramos said that local government units, the Armed Forces, the Coast Guard, other government agencies, and even the media reported more deaths than the agency itself.

"But to us, we rely on bodies and their names," said Ramos.

The storm is heading toward Palawan and will exit over the West Philippine Sea by Sunday afternoon, according to the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa).

Moving over the open waters of the West Philippine Sea, website accuweather.com said Sendong will have a chance to better organize and strengthen early next week.

The storm is not expected to reach typhoon status, however, it could become a strong tropical storm during this period, accuweather.com meteorlogist Eric Leister said.

Sendong will then start to turn more southwest as it brings the threat for heavy rainfall to southern Vietnam during the first half of next week.

“If Washi (Sendong) passes south of Vietnam, it will then likely weaken and move into southern Thailand or northern Malaysia before dissipating,” Leister said.

In a typical year, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) said six to nine tropical cyclones cross over the Philippines.

This year, however, has been unusually deadly with typhoons Pedring and Quiel causing heavy flooding, killing over 100 people in Luzon in late September and early October. (Terry Betonio/Joey Nacalaban/Michael Andrew Yu/Loui Maliza of Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro/Virgil Lopez/BOT/VR/Sunnex)

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on December 18, 2011.

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