Devastation in northern Cebu

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Sunday, November 10, 2013


MAYORS in Cebu’s northernmost towns reported 14 killed by super typhoon Yolanda, which flattened their crops, damaged nearly all of their constituents’ houses and cut off power and phone services for two days now.

The death toll is expected to rise beyond the government’s list of 138 dead as of last night.

In Tacloban City, more than 100 bodies were spotted on the streets. Blocked roads and the absence of power and phone services made it impossible to assess the damage in Guiuan, Eastern Samar, where Yolanda first made landfall in the country before daybreak last Friday.

In Bantayan, Cebu, where Yolanda made its fourth landfall at 10:40 a.m. last Friday, Mayor Ian Escario said it would take two to three months for them to recover.

“Saludo ko sa taga-Bantayan. Magtinabangay mi. Dili mi mo-surrender. Mobangon mi (I commend the people of Bantayan. We will help one another and we will not surrender. We will rise),” he told Cebu Gov. Hilario Davide III, whose team reached the island, known as the “egg basket of Central Visayas,” Saturday afternoon.

Escario said 90 percent of the island was swept by the typhoon, wrecking nearly all the houses, schools, infrastructure, the poultry and piggery farms, and the biggest feed mill.

No classes

Mayor Escario said he received reports of eight deaths from the various islets, mostly those who refused to leave their homes in the coastal areas.

The typhoon destroyed majority of the homes, buildings and agricultural crops in Bogo City, Daanbantayan and Sogod, these areas’ mayors said.

After visiting Bantayan, the governor was also scheduled to go to Sta. Fe and Madridejos towns yesterday.

The Department of Education announced that classes in eight towns in northern Cebu will be suspended from tomorrow until Nov. 15.

These are Bantayan, Sta. Fe, Madridejos, San Remigio, Medellin, Tabogon, Borbon and Sogod.

But Medellin Mayor Ricardo Ramirez said it will take at least a month to repair his town’s school buildings.

The bodies of three people who died in Medellin town were released yesterday to their relatives. Mayor Ramirez said two bodies were found in the mangroves of Kanhabagat.

Rapid force

None of the 14 reported deaths in Cebu has been listed by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Rehabilitation Council (NDRRMC) as of last night.

Help was on the way, but the full details the destruction Yolanda caused were still emerging.

The Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office (PSWDO) sent yesterday 1,500 packs of relief goods to Bantayan Island, using the private boat Gemini V of businessman Wellington Chan-Lim.

Mayor Ramirez of Medellin suggested that the Province organize “a rapid deployment force” to be sent to the areas badly hit by the typhoon.

“For a calamity as wide as this, we need people from the outside,” said Ramirez. He explained his local workers were also attending to their family’s needs, like a place to sleep and food on their tables.

Before the typhoon, Ramirez had requested the Capitol for a generator set.

In Daanbantayan, the northernmost tip of mainland Cebu, Mayor Augusto Corro said the town’s services were immobilized.

“We are devastated. Wala na mahitsura diri (It’s chaotic here),” he told Sun.Star Cebu.

Their market, gas stations, church and municipal hall were all damaged. Motorists scrambled yesterday for the dwindling fuel supply.

New role

Mayor Corro said they will use P5 million, which is 70 percent of their calamity fund. But they will need financial assistance from the Provincial Government and relief goods from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) 7 to be distributed to displaced families.

During the interview, the mayor said they had been planning to help Bohol Province, where several towns were damaged by the 7.2 magnitude earthquake last Oct. 15.

“Kami naman hinuoy tabanganan karon (Now we’re the ones who need help),” he said.

As of yesterday, Corro said there was no reported death in Daanbantayan, because many families living in disaster-prone neighborhoods were already evacuated since Thursday.

Daanbantayan Vice Mayor Gilbert Arrabis Jr said most of the evacuated families lived in coastal areas. The first-class municipality has 20 barangays, 15 of them are located on the coastline.

He said they were anticipating a storm surge, which indeed destroyed many houses. After the typhoon, many roads were also impassable.

In Bogo City, the police said two people were reported killed in Barangay Banban and Malingin after they got hit by fallen debris.

Another person was reported missing in Barangay Nailon.

Lost ‘everything’

Bogo City Mayor Celestino “Junie” Martinez Jr. said Yolanda was the worst storm he encountered in his 35 years of public service.

“Practically, it destroyed everything we have here from infrastructure to agriculture. We didn’t expect it could do such damage,” he told Sun.Star Cebu.

The P250-million Bogo City Hall, which was inaugurated last April, was among the structures damaged. Its roof got ripped off, its glass windows broke, and some parts of the building also suffered damage.

The city’s gymnasium where hundreds of families were evacuated was not spared. Evacuees had to hide in comfort rooms and bleachers in order not to get wet.

Martinez and his staff conducted an emergency meeting yesterday morning on what will be their first step in dealing with the destruction.

“I want every barangay captain to get involved so our actions in solving the problem will be collective,” the mayor said. The city, which belongs to the fourth district, has 29 barangays, whose main livelihood is farming and trading.

In Sogod town, Mayor Lisa Marie Durano-Estreegan said many of her constituents, mostly farmers, lost their means of livelihood.

Two were reported injured in Barangay Tabunok and Poblacion.

“Because of the preemptive evacuation, no one got killed. Preparation was the key in dealing with this kind of disaster,” she said.

They also cut off trees few days before Yolanda arrived.

Help

Durano-Estreegan said they will give financial assistance to the families who lost their homes. Private organizations such as Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. and World Vision have pledged to give support, she said.

In the towns of Carmen, Catmon and Danao, the police said no one was reported killed or injured.

In Bantayan, although some of the roads are now passable, Escario said, they still need more heavy equipment to clear the debris.

He thanked Lim, who owns the biggest feed mill in town, for lending the local government unit his equipment to help clear the roads of felled trees.

All the public schools that were made into evacuation centers lost their roofs. Escario said he had to request those who have bigger houses to accommodate those who lost their homes.

The mayor said they need water, heavy equipment and crude oil to fuel their pump boats.

Gasoline stations are not operating because of the lack of electricity.

Also, only one of the five water pumps of the water cooperative in the island is operating.

Morale

Communication lines were down. Globe’s cell phone service was functional, but people had to go to Sta. Fe town to make a call or send messages.

A team from Smart Communications was in the island to set up Libreng Tawag stations yesterday.

(Disclosure: A Sun.Star Cebu team that went with the governor’s team communicated with the newsroom last night through a satellite phone provided by Smart.)

Escario thanked Davide for the help of the Cebu Provincial Government. “Salamat, Gov. Dako ni nga tabang alang sa morale namo nga mga taga Bantayan (This will help the morale of Bantayan’s people),” he said.

Davide’s team reached the island yesterday afternoon via a roro vessel owned by Island Shipping, which docked at the distressed Sta. Fe port.

As of 8 p.m., Davide’s team was headed for Madridejos to check on the town’s situation.

In Camotes Island, Pilar Mayor Jess Fernandez said that 30-year-old Ester Estoy from Barangay Esperanza died after being pinned by a falling coconut tree.

He said 90 percent of the houses in his town were damaged or destroyed. Evacuees transferred to other buildings at the height of the storm on Friday morning, as the wind blew off the roofs of schools where they had sought shelter.

Assessment

In Borbon, at least 1,000 houses were damaged, said Mayor Butch Sepulveda. He expects the figure to go up when he completes the assessment.

Provincial Disaster and Risk Reduction Management Council (PDRRMC) Executive Director Neil Sanchez and Cebu Provincial Schools Division Superintendent Arden Monisit could not yet assess the damage brought by the typhoon.

Sanchez, however, said roads from Cebu City to San Remigio were already clear.

Ramirez also said the road from his town, Medellin, to Daanbantayan is already passable.

He said the town may have lost more than P100 million worth of infrastructure, including their public market, health center, sports complex and school buildings.

The mayor, who is also a director of the Bogo-Medellin Sugar Planters’ Association, said the storm flattened 7,000 hectares of sugarcane.

They had been hoping to harvest tomorrow.

“This is going to be a bleak Christmas for us here,” Ramirez said.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on November 10, 2013.

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