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School offers too brief a rest for storm victims

MATI CITY—Where to next?

Villagers displaced by Typhoon “Pablo” in two towns in Davao Oriental, one of the worst hit provinces, will be  displaced again from  Mati National High School here as education officials want the school emptied of at least 158 evacuees by today to prepare the school for the resumption of classes on Jan. 2.

It leaves Rodelo Aporbo, his wife and two children wondering where to go next after staying in the school for the last 20 days.

Social welfare workers had listed two options for the evacuees—return to their devastated hometowns in Cateel and Baganga or move to another evacuation center that has not been identified yet.

If they opt to return home, the government promised to give them tents, work and six months’ worth of food ration.

Aporbo, however, is not convinced. He wants to stay. “We cannot go back there. There is nothing there  for us,” he told the  Inquirer.

Aporbo’s home is the village of Poo in Baganga town where he said “it is so hot that the children get sick.”

Poo is a 14-hectare islet. At least seven of its 500 residents were killed when Pablo struck on Dec. 4. Most of its residents have either evacuated to the mainland or to Mati City.

“There are no trees there. There are no shades. The children are ill with cough and colds,” said Aporbo. “If we go back there, the more we will suffer,” he added.

Luzviminda Verba, another evacuee, feels the same. Her house in the village of Kinabalangan is now upside down, torn from its lot by the storm.

While willing to return to her village, Verba said it was not yet time. “The water there is not safe for drinking,” she said.

Aporbo said he felt uneasy over the government’s promise to provide food for six months. “After six months, what?” he said.

“Our livelihood is fishing. We cannot be forever eating noodles and canned sardines,” he said.

Aporbo and residents of Poo lost their boats during the storm.

Sister Badette Dollete, directress of  Ad Jesum Development Foundation, said the evacuees could stay at the foundation’s seminar house, which has 150 beds, “only until the provincial government has found a place for them.”

“They are pitiful,” said the nun. “What a timing to make them leave the schools.” Nico Alconaba, Inquirer Mindanao

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Tags: Davao Oriental , disaster , School , Typhoon Pablo

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