THE Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) has placed the Davao Region on red alert after heavy rains flooded several communities and displaced hundreds of families.

Office of Civil Defense (OCD) Regional Director Leoncio Cirunay, in an interview Thursday, February 16, said the heavy rains, which started at dawn, were due to the tail end of the cold front affecting Mindanao.

Hundreds were forced to seek temporary shelter at their respective evacuation centers as several communities were flooded due to the swelling of rivers caused by the rains.

Based on the situation report they collected Thursday morning, Cirunay said in Davao City, 72 families or 350 individuals were affected in Barangay Talomo Proper and 79 families or 362 persons in Matina Aplaya.

The families were sheltered at designated evacuation centers in their areas but as of 4 p.m. of the same day, after the water subsided, the evacuees were allowed to return to their respective homes.

The OCD reported some residents dwelling near the Davao River, which is on orange alert level as of 1 p.m., were evacuated.

According to the Pagasa warning system, an orange warning means intense rain, equivalent to four to eight gallons of water per square meter per hour, is observed in one hour and expected to continue in the next two hours. The public is advised to be alert for possible evacuation, as flooding is threatening in the affected areas.

A total of 40 families in Barangay Bucana were evacuated, 106 families in Barangay Maa are temporarily sheltered in Maa Elementary School, 20 families in Barangay 10 San Rafael, and 31 families in Barangay 19-B at El Rio Subdivision Phase 1 were evacuated to El Rio gym.

As of 1 p.m., the Lipadas River reached the Yellow alert level while Talomo River in orange level and required preemptive evacuation. Matina and Bunawan rivers were also in yellow alert while Lasang River was in orange alert.

Luz Gonzales, one of the evacuees, brought her five grandchildren around 5 a.m. at the evacuation center in Matina Crossing.

Gonzales said her family immediately left their home after the barangay alarmed the siren, which signaled the residents to evacuate.

“Nanigurado lang ko og evacuate. Naguba na ang tulay sa Arroyo compound. Natagam nami sa una kay nakulong mi (I made sure to evacuate since the bridge in Arroyo compound is already damaged. I learned my lesson already because before we were caught in the middle),” she said.

There were also 151 families (755 individuals) who were evacuated to a safer ground in Compostela Valley. The OCD is still closely coordinating with other provinces.

The non-stop rains prevailing in the city prompted the Office of the President to order the cancellation of classes in all public and private primary and secondary levels while the local government units (LGUs) in Malita, Davao Occidental, Island Garden City of Samal, Davao del Norte, Compostela Valley, Mati City, Davao Oriental and Tagum City, Davao del Norte also declared the suspension of classes.

According to the weather forecast of Pagasa issued at 5 a.m., Thursday, the region will experience cloudy skies with moderate to occasionally heavy rains and thunderstorms which may also trigger flashfloods and landslides.

OCD already placed the member-agencies of Regional Disaster Risk Reduction Management in a “blue alert” status to closely monitor their areas of responsibility for any immediate untoward effects of the current weather condition in the Davao Region.

Blue alert means 50 percent of disaster units personnel must be at their posts at any time.

Likewise, they are enjoined to also activate their respective Disaster Operations Center and pre-position their response assets and resources for possible deployment to all affected areas due to the effects of the weather.

Cirunay also recommended to the people living in low-lying areas and mountain slopes to be alert and follow the warnings of their LGUs to avoid untoward incidents.

The OCD, however, has not received any report of fatality in the region. (With KVC)