Search on for 380 missing

38 people given up for dead found alive


RIVER CROSSING Lenlen Medrano and her child (on stretcher), survivors of Typhoon Pablo, prepare to be transported across a surging river on a zip line in the town of New Bataan, compostela province on December 6, 2012. Nearly 200,000 people are homeless and more than 300 dead after the Philippines suffered its worst typhoon this year, authorities said on December 6, reaching out for international aid to cope with the scale of the disaster. AFP PHOTO / TED ALJIBE

NEW BATAAN, Compostela Valley––Gomer Opiso thought he would never make it alive as he swam in a raging torrent of mud that swept his village on Tuesday as Typhoon “Pablo” struck with a ferocity never before experienced in its history.

“Every time I bobbed my head out of the water, I was thinking that I was already dead. I lost consciousness. Then I woke up,” he said.

He was, in fact, one of several dozen miracle survivors of the strongest typhoon to hit the country this year.

In its update at midmorning, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said it had so far counted 327 dead from Pablo’s predawn rampage.

But as the toll of lives steadily mounted,  another tally was rising.

At least 38 of those previously declared missing had been found alive, giving fresh hopes for an estimated 380 unaccounted for as rescuers led by the military’s Eastern Command combed remote villages cut off by damaged roads and bridges.

Maj. Gen. Ariel Bernardo, commander of the 10th Infantry Division, said the chances of finding survivors in the debris were slim, but search and rescue operations were continuing. “It’s been three days already. It’s a race against time,” Bernardo said.

He said an aerial survey showed several areas were “totally wiped out.”

Opiso recalled desperately gasping for breath each time his head dipped under the thick floodwaters that hurtled down the slopes of Barangay (village) San Roque in this sleepy farming and mining town of 45,000 people, now littered with toppled coconut trees and debris from destroyed houses.

At the end of his deathly ride, the 23-year-old charcoal maker found himself 5 kilometers away from home, looking and feeling like a beaten man. His face and body bore numerous cuts, gashes and bruises. But he was alive.

‘It’s a miracle’

Another survivor who surfaced Thursday was  Carlos Agang, 54. Slathered in mud and teary-eyed, he recounted to reporters how his small community of banana and coconut farmers was obliterated as a deadly wall of water and monster winds that Pablo—international name: Bopha—generated as it made landfall before dawn on Tuesday.

“It’s a miracle that I survived, but I might as well be dead,” Agang said as aid workers carried him off on a stretcher  to be airlifted to the hospital. He said he survived on coconuts for two days.

Flash floods had carried away Agang’s mountainside home outside New Bataan along with him, his wife and four children. The floodwaters deposited him downstream in a boulder-strewn field, where he lay pinned down for two days by rocks and debris.

“I was shouting for help all the time, but no one came. I don’t know what happened to (my family). Perhaps they are all dead,” said Agang, who was finally rescued by local residents early Thursday.

Rescuers were still depositing unidentified corpses at a government yard in the center of town Thursday, near a gymnasium packed with scores of homeless typhoon victims lying on mats on the wet, muddy floor.

Most houses and buildings in the town were flattened by boulders and logs that rolled down the mountainside, and the ground was carpeted with sludge.

Stench of death

Shell-shocked survivors scrambled through the rubble to find anything that could be recovered, as relatives searched for missing family members among the newly arrived body bags delivered by soldiers.

“We expect to retrieve more bodies today,” said Francisco Macalipay, a Philippine Army soldier who commanded the truck delivering the bodies.

Macalipay said rescuers were struggling to reach villages amid the destroyed roads and wrecked bridges, but finding corpses was hardly a problem.

“Just let your nose lead you to them,” he told Agence France-Presse, referring to the overpowering stench of dead bodies everywhere.

The toll of lives from the typhoon was posted on a bulletin board in front of a multipurpose hall at the town center, where dozens of bedraggled residents with mud-caked feet waited for relief goods, or for word about their lost loved ones. The count was 92 as of midday on Thursday.

It was about 6 a.m. when Opiso and his small family heard the storm roaring outside. Langwan, one of the rivers in the town, had risen to dangerous levels, he said. “It sounded like a ship was coming straight at us,” he said in Cebuano.

“I was holding hands with my wife and our daughter, then the water just slammed into our house. It was so strong, and we were separated. I felt like we were being spun around by the mud,” Opiso said.

The house along with all the occupants in it was swept away in the surge.

Ferocious winds

From a different vantage point, Pedro Cabuñas, 38, was warily watching the Mayo River from his small house in Barangay Andap, one of the hardest hit villages here.

“From where I was standing, it was just this wide,” he said, motioning with his hands stretched to about half a foot. “Then moments later, it was already this wide,” he said spanning his hands by two feet.

Upon seeing the river, he said he and his family quickly fled to the house of a cousin, along with the entire neighborhood of 10 families. “We crammed inside because we knew it was only a matter of time before the river spilled,” he said.

Cabuñas and his family survived but he said scores of others in his village were not as lucky.

“They huddled together in the barangay center thinking they were safe. But the wall of water crashed directly into them,” he said.

The corn grower claimed that as many as 800 had died in Barangay Andap. “It’s not just 200 or 300. Don’t believe a word of it. An entire barangay was lost,” he said.

Unlike New Bataan, in most other sections of the gold-rich Compostela Valley, the enemy was the wind, not the water.

Alfie Ayuban, a miner digging in Camanlangan, said he and his family huddled together inside their roadside home in Compostela Valley town as the storm raged.

December disasters

“It was impossible to go outside to even take a look at what was happening. Galvanized iron roofs were flying around. You would die,” his neighbor, Lady Veloso, 34, said.

After it passed, Ayuban’s house was reduced to rubble. Another of his neighbors, Ricaredo Ligayon, 77, was killed after a coconut fell on his head.

“We’ve been living here all our lives and this is the first time something like this has happened,” Veloso said.

Everywhere in Mindanao, this was a common lament for the second December in a row.

Marciana Cueba, a 67-year-old grandmother of four, wondered aloud why Mindanao was no longer being spared from storms. “We always thought we were safe. But now we know something like this can happen again,” she said.

Last year’s Tropical Storm “Sendong” laid to waste vast sections of Northern Mindanao, particularly the cities of Iligan and Cagayan de Oro, an area also previously thought to be away from the path of storms. It killed more than 1,500 people.

The Manila Observatory in January observed that based on data from the US Joint Typhoon Warning Center, “roughly one typhoon crosses Mindanao every 10 years.”

On its Wikipedia page, New Bataan is described as a first class town in Compostela Valley “surrounded (by) mountain ranges that keep the place away from coming typhoons.” Clearly, that is no longer the case. With reports from Nikko Dizon in Manila, AFP, and Dennis Jay Santos, Inquirer Mindanao

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  • $18209031

    New Bataan ? Mga taga Bataan mga ito noon resettling here in far down south.

  • tadasolo

    Disaster like this can be mitigated provided we make LGU responsible for evacuation when know harzardous areas are identified. Somebody should be made accountable and there should be penalty for irresponsible LGU. 

  • tony

    why don’t these people ask for financial assistance from the CBCP … they make huge amounts of money from their mass collections … these are the same characters who want to have millions upon millions of indigent citizens because according to them, it ie better to have more poor people than less poor people while at the same time, a large poor population offers a huge pool of children from which these CBCP priests can choose their sexual victims!

    • josefe38

      Di na kailangan maghingi sa simbahan dahil kusa ang simbahang Catoliko tutulong sa pamagitan ng Caritas! Ngayon alam mo na!

  • Roland

    Why aren’t local officials being hanged for these disasters… kitang kita sa videos/news yung sangkatutak na logs na bumuhos galing sa mga bundok, so obviously, this is a major case of illegal logging contributing to disasters like these. Ang mga pobreng victims, tutulungan ng mga mayor/governor with abuloy, tapos sabay kampanya, tapos iboboto sila ng mga victims/voters, and tuloy ang pagkalbo ng mga politicians sa mga forest and water sheds… once mabura na sa mapa ang mga constituents ng mga politicians, lipad na sila sa abroad, bitbit ang mga kinita nila sa illegal logging…

    • $18209031

       Dyan ang pera ng probinsya at pinagkikitaan ng marami lalo na syndikato. Hindi yan mabawasan . Many lives depended on it so it will never end.

    • Heze Zeta virgines

      thats really true their just showing how much BUWAYA are them and this mga innocent and uneducated people naman ay nagpapadala sa mga mabubulaklak nilang salta not knowing that the’re just being used for this politicians personal needs.   

  • Riz Manas

    The FILIPINO people should start SUING the Philippine Government and known illegal loggers for their CRIME against HUMANITY. The best way to file this case is through the INTERNATIONAL COURT OF JUSTICE. Good Luck!

    • Roland

      haha, kung si marcos nga, still running around, and even the kiddies are planning on running for presidency, yung mga powerful politicos na kumi-kickback sa mga illegal logging projects and makukulong? Education is the key (plus RH bill, family planning, sustenable population growth, etc)… but our politicians do not want an educated/well fed masses, dahil di sila iboboto ng mga educated people.. so it is in the best interest of politicos in pinas to keep churning out poor uneducated voters…

  • Commentator

    I think the government should invest in the reforestation and infrastructure of these areas and encourage manufacturing to put up business so that people will have alternative jobs apart from agriculture, mining and logging. This is better than importing too much product from communist China.

    • $18209031

      Let this be a reminder to all kayus who like to inject Anti Chinese sentiments BS. Continue to chupapa the white master in order for them to borrow more money from Chinese benevolence so  they can rightfully say they ve helped  the poor kayu   dirty smelly azzes   from this Act of Mother Nature.

      If its the act of God, just accept it and continue. Dont try to BS your kayu racism like you like to do. Blame it on Santo Calungsod for not listening to your prayers . Maybe your prayers were full of ugly motives . Only prayer s with good intentions are heard from above.

      • Commentator

        I am not talking about Chinese racism. I am trying to solve the poverty in the area which is due to the lack of manufacturing or factories which is a big job creator. But because of too much import from China, Philippine companies cannot survive the competition. I think the government should put more taxes on Chinese products which will be a big help.

      • Psiitoon Charoenkrung

        You are right;  the government should not only impose higher taxes on Chinese products but put a lid on the imports of chinese goods.  The people and the government should slowly wean themselves from too much dependence on substandard chinese products

      • Psiitoon Charoenkrung

        The whites are no masters but they are everywhere to help those that are in need.  Its the yellow chinese that are trying to conquer and invade weaker neighbors.  You believe it or not,  the US is still has the strongest economy and military in all the world.  

      • marco antonio perez

        you started off with good arguments, but in the end “Only prayer s with good intentions are heard from above”, it all came down crushing to rabble.

  • Fulpol

    The corn grower claimed that as many as 800 had died in Barangay Andap. “It’s not just 200 or 300. Don’t believe a word of it. An entire barangay was lost,” he said.

    we know, politicians are liars..

    • Melanio Calayeg

      Yeah that’s the best news I read today……coming from the mouth of an ordinary person….

    • angtangamo

       Yep. Same thing happened to an orphanage in Marikina during Ondoy. The people that ran the orphanage locked the gates before the floods, and when the floods came nobody could get out. Everybody inside died but nothing was mentioned in the news.

    • suroy_suroy

       The politians can’t let them just die – they need them to vote in the coming election.

  • Melanio Calayeg

    Politicians are habitual Liars…. this happens also in Ondoy and Peping tragedy……Were many  casualties was not recorded and reported due to the negligence on their part…. 

  • delpillar

    Ang may pinakamakasalan dito ay yung local officials, Governor and Mayor in particular. Sa Japan, the weather bureau announced regularly the wind velocity and the amount of rain fall. Based on topography and soil conditions, the mayor/governor explain the following (to all schools both elementary and Junior high shool). Long time ago ay yearly ng tinuturo dapat ito as part of the corricuklum of elementary schools, PTA meeting and Barangay meeting.
    1. If the rainfall is 20mm/hour, what does it mean to our village
    2. If the rainfal is 50mm/hour, what does it mean to our village.
    3. If the rainfall is 80mm/hour, what does it mean to our village.
    4. If the rainfall is 300mm overnight (6 hours) what does it mean to our village?
    5. When the siren alarm-out, what and where the people should go.
    6. The mayor/gov inform all schools and village leaders of the hazard map of the locality.

    The citizens band (UHF/VHF) should be controlled or managed by the mayor/governor.
    1. Where are those UHF/VHF radios located which act as a heartbeat of communications. The Barangay captian or the likes should have celphone or VHF/UHF and in constantly sending “HEARTBEAT” communication with the mayor in times like this. Where are those 5-km radius capable VHF/UHF radios located? Where are those 25-km radius UHF/VHF located, etc. etc.

    2. With the help of the national governemnt, all cell sites in Japan, are mandated to have a back-up power that will run and take over the power supply without human intervention….. at least for 3 hours since the power outage happened. After the 3/11 earthquake, they have revised the law requiring all cell sites to have 24-hour back-up power.
    3. The government agencies has a permanent BANDWIDTH in each teleco
    m company that will NEVER BECOME BUSY or become congested. This is to ensure that at least, there is a FUNCTIONING government channel of communications that is always FREE of INTERFERENCE and CONGESTION.Japan still relies on the old technology (in tandem with the latest technology) when it comes to calamity, that is using the UHF/VHF, AM/FM, SSB, Short-Wave and air-raid sirens scattered all over the archipelago installed since WW2.

  • Jaelsimone

    I am a foreigner married to a Filipina, I should be the one to explain to the government and journalists disaster in this country and the problems that there are in all sectors.r
    I hope that the government has called a Senato responsible for the land and the environment and I think he is primarily responsible.
    A never made ​​a plan logistics of the territories where there are all these villages, and eager to do meetings with the mayors of the cities’ and find solutions? I think not.
    Mayors of cities’ engineers should call and check the situation of the villages that belong to the local council to plan and find appropriate solutions.
    Journalists talk about in the newspapers of the situation of the national territory, making Reports of the situation in the villages and amplify the situation with articles on newspapers.
    I never see on television political programs with journalists asking questions also imbarrazzanti politicians who are invited to discuss the situation in the country.
    I regret deeply for those who lost their lives find it absurd. I can not spigare in two words all the problems you have in all areas of a collapse.
    Best Regards

    • zeroko

      No surprise buddy, Our government is dominated by Filipino-Chinese whose major objective is to suck and cheat the Filipinos. Where on earth do you see a Mayor somewhere in Davao region in which he sterilizer a thousand indigenous tribe who has already the problem of  surviving because his habitat was devastated by Chinese mining and illegal logging firms? It’s nothing but ethnic cleansing, genocide!

      Another foreigner in Scandinavian country sums up saying mining in our country is not practical erstwhile destructive because of the inherent weather our country has wherein we are within the typhoon belt, And I can farther state that no matter how large the holding pond or catch basin these mining firms will built to contain their toxic waste is an exercise in futility. It just would not stop the overflow which results to spreading its toxic waste like Mercury, Sulfur Dioxide, Lead, and Arsenic,  extremely toxic substance, from spreading and contaminating our environment.

      But, since we have a Filipino-Chinese government, I do not expect them to consider the welfare of the Filipinos. We are a conquered nation.

      • Jaelsimone

         Dear Zekoro, the reason for your post, but in my country there are cases of pollution. But we pollute the law works if managers are arrestati.Certo in the Philippines there is no control probably are complicit in the institutions of government that close not one but two eyes to the devastation caused by these companies. A newspaper should hold true to what is happening in the country and openly condemn the politicians who do not do their job conscientiously .. One thing that you are the unions that protect all categories of workers, and the environment, the government when making decisions at the negotiating table, there are also trade unions. I noticed that the laws in small towns’ does not exist, and if there are people who do not put them into practice. If I were to make a list of things that do not work in the Philippines put the hours. The people must rise up against the injustices they suffer, if a public official does his duty must be cast out.Sincerely.

  • Juanito

    this is a mother nature disaster no one is to blame ! in the first place think about your saftey when it comes this situation , that you are live in the midle 0f no where and no help ‘ HELLO.

  • catmanjohn

    One of the first things the government should do, is do a stress test and evaluation of all evacuation centers in the country and make sure they do not become death traps for those seeking shelter, whether it be against a typhoon or an earthquake. If these buildings are substandard, they should be immediately replaced with structurally sound buildings that can house the appropriate amount of people safely. Any politicians who commits graft or steals will have their heads under a steam roller. This would be good chance to see which politicians are reformed, and which are still the same parasites.

  • m1600

    Compostela valley was so devastated wala ng  makain most of all their source of income was also damaged kaya itong mga salot na NPA na nabubuhay sa REVOLUTIONARY TAX/kotong  sa COMVAL sana sinama na din ng bagyong si PABLO sa WEST PHIL SEA. NPA. pahirap Kayo sa taong bayan.

    • Psiitoon Charoenkrung

      yes,  what the government cannot do,  the nature did it to the NPAs;  I believe many of them were also washed out in the flood

  • Pablo Juan

    I keep on hearing people say on  TV that it was such a disaster because of  ‘illegal mining..” and ‘illegal logging’ as the ‘possible’ causes.

    Wake up people!! Nature does not give a hoot if denudation is done legally or not.  ALL FORMS of MINING and LOGGING contributed to this disaster.

    It’s payback time.  Big time.

    Btw, in case somebody in government actually read posts here.. you might want to ask yourselves this:

    “Who are the biggest financiers of legal and ILLEGAL mining AND logging in Del Norte, Comval and Davao Oriental?”

    Hint: PNoy will actually be meeting and shaking the hands of some of them today.. all of them with “Honorable” titles.

    • buttones

      Exactly right, it is not ‘illegal’ loggers responsible for this, it’s ‘logging’ period, and I would a guess that so called ‘legal’ logging take our more timber than ‘illegal’. And in fact there is no difference between the two, one has a piece of paper that authorizes him to commit environmental vandalism, and the other one doesn’t. I was under the impression that Aquino implemented a no logging policy other than plantation logging- it is absurd to say we cannot locate these ‘criminals’, there is as you say, and always has been political involvement, I begin to wonder whether involving LGU’s in forestry after EDSA was a good thing, and it should have been left centralized, Marcos had some good programs, his trouble was he handed out the logging concessions to all his cronies.. In the end of course legislation has to pass Congress, very unlikely to pass anything serious for obvious reasons… We only have 5 million hectares left of forest left, and it’s getting less everyday,

      • Adam_d_langgam

        The “brave” president lost his balls somewhere. Si Gloria lang ang kaya. Babae kasi at galit sa beauty ni Tita Glo. Ranged against the machos who rape our forests, tiklop si Simeon.

    • Robin

       A law on total log ban has been signed by the PNoy. No legal logging is happening only the illegal ones are continuing. Kailangan tumulong ng ordinaryong tao para matigil ito, dahil ang ordinaryong tao din ang namamatay dahil dito.

    • Canoto

       Alam ng lahat ng tao sa Compostela Valley kung cno ang nag mamayri ng malalaking minahan na nagtatago  bilang small scale miner kuno.

  • Pogi=”No To Political Dynasty”

    Ang kasabihan nasa tao ang gawa nasa diyos ang awa.
    Itigil na ang minahan at pagtrotroso legal o illegal man.

  • WeAry_Bat

    Even in urban rescues, zip lines should be on standby.

  • Canoto

    New Bataan in Compostela Valley is a known RED area. Mga NPA ang mga nag logging ngayon dito kaya di mapa hinto ng gobyerno kasi mga armado ang mga NPA. only a few barangays is controlled by the Army but the rest is controlled by the NPA.

  • delpillar

    katulad ng sabi ng iba, hindi tama ang census lalo na sa mga mining and logging communities. May mga barrios and towns na ni-wipe-out totally. N one will report missing sooner if the whole family and neighbors were killed. So the missing or dead could reach over 800 to more than a thousand.

  • jenny lim

    You mess with nature, nature will mess you.

    Gobyerno ang dahilan.  Mining and logging caused it or aggravate it.  Ngunit bakit patuloy pa rin ang operasyon?  Sus, DENR received payola together with other implementing agencies. 

    Kung sino sinong sinisisi. Stop mining and logging activities or else suffer the consequences much worse than this.

    But I already send my donation [money and in kind] to our parish.  I still pray for the victims.  I’m just quite wondering when will government implementing agencies learn and perpetrators of the destruction of nature come to their senses.

  • marco antonio perez

    there is nothing much the government can do about climate change.  this event is one of the effects of the accumulated abuses of nations (highly industrialized, e.g. china, europe) emitting the highest levels of carbon footprint on the planet, we are just unluckily placed in the wrong side of the map.  the best solution to avoid this types of calamity is one, by migrating to other countries, two, united nations acts on a viable solution in cutting down carbon footprint emission on the planet.

    bottom line, the industrialized nations keeps getting richer by abusing nature, and we are the ones paying the price. such a cruel world!

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