MANILA, Philippines?The rains eased on Tuesday in Mindanao, according to weathermen, but the flash floods and landslides these had spawned claimed the lives of at least 10 people and displaced some 260,00 people in provinces in the Caraga region, Compostela Valley and Lanao del Norte.
A state of calamity has been declared in Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur and Butuan City in Agusan del Norte after landslides and floods swamped farmlands, destroyed bridges and roads, and toppled power lines, said Blance Gobenciong, director of the Office of the Civil Defense (OCD) in Caraga.
In Southern Leyte, Governor Damian Mercado ordered the evacuation of people living in disaster-prone areas after nonstop rains sent mud crashing down houses from a mountain in St. Bernard town, killing three children. Two drowning victims were reported.
A day after the holiday break, classes were suspended in more than a hundred elementary and high schools in Surigao del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Agusan del Norte, Surigao del Sur and Siargao Island. Several schools in Agusan del Sur and Butuan were used as evacuation centers for displaced families.
St. Bernard again
President Aquino has ordered authorities to address the needs of the flood victims in the Visayas and Mindanao and find out why there were still casualties in St. Bernard despite the relocation of villagers years ago.
?For me, the major issue is St. Bernard in Southern Leyte because most of the people had been relocated there and yet their lives are still endangered,? the President told reporters after attending the command turnover and conference at the Philippine Navy headquarters in Manila.
Cold air from northeast Asia coming into contact with warmer air in the tropical country have helped cause the heavy rains. On Tuesday, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa), reported improved weather in Mindanao based on satellite images.
?Thin clouds prevail. Southern Palawan and Rio Tuba have rain now. Rainfall readings show decreased rain in Caraga,? Graciano Yumul Jr., acting Pagasa chief said in an interview.
But Yumul said the rain band brought by the tail end of the ?cold front? would bring rains to the Visayas in the next two days. A cold front occurs when a mass of cool air replaces a mass of warm air, forming clouds that bring precipitation.
Worst flood in 10 yrs
?The rain band is moving upward. In 48 hours, it will be rainy in Visayas,? Yumul said.
Eastern Visayas is expected to have ?moderate to occasionally heavy rains? in the next 24 hours, according to a report from Pagasa?s hydrometeorology department. Central and Western Visayas will experience ?light to moderate rains.?
Abner Caga, director of the state-owned Philippine Information Agency in Caraga, said eight people were killed while six others remained missing in the region. The two other fatalities were reported in Monkayo town in Compostela Valley and in Baroy town in Lanao del Norte.
Three of the Caraga fatalities were recorded in Butuan, two in Surigao del Sur, two in Agusan del Sur and one in Surigao City.
?This is the worst flooding in 10 years. Butuan City usually does not get flooded because it is protected by a viaduct but this time, it really got hit. The whole of Butuan City is flooded,? Gobenciong told Agence France-Presse.
?Even the areas previously not touched by floods were affected,? she said of the city of 270,000 people.
But Butuan Mayor Ferdinand Amante said floodwaters inundated nearly half or 43 of the city?s 88 barangays. A total of 21,875 people or 4,375 families, mostly living in low-lying areas and near the Agusan River, were displaced, he said.
Mine tunnel collapse
Caga said a mine tunnel caved in at Barangay Maibu in Butuan on Monday, killing Dioscoro Albiro Jr., 17, and Chelo Carrido, 40.
A 60-year-old woman was killed while another was missing in two landslides that hit the gold-rich Mt. Diwalwal in Monkayo on Sunday night, according to Compostela Valley Governor Arturo Uy.
Floodwaters forced at least 30 families to leave their homes in Montevista town. Roads and rice fields in New Bataan town were inundated, Mayor Lorenzo Balbin said.
Senior Superintendent Aaron Aquino, provincial police chief, said two children were swept away by strong river current late Monday. Rescuers, however, failed to recover their bodies.
In Lanao del Norte, 1,267 families or 6,400 people in Lala, Baroy and Tubod towns have fled their homes due to floods. A 6-year-old girl drowned as raging floodwaters swept her family?s home in Barangay Sagadan in Baroy.
Engulfed by floods were Barangays Raw-an, Pendulunan, Matampay Ilaya, Lanipao at Cabasagan in Lala; Upper Sagadan, Raw-an Point, and Baroy Dacu in Baroy; and Pigcarangan, Poblacion, Bulod and Cacai Renabor in Tubod.
Relief and rehabilitation efforts continued as the floodwaters began to subside particularly in low-lying and riverside villages. Power supply has yet to be restored in several towns in Surigao del Sur.
In Tagum City, hundreds of evacuees started to head home on Tuesday.
Visibly irked over the loss of lives due to flash floods and landslides, Southern Leyte Governor Mercado ordered the provincial disaster management office to evacuate residents in disaster-prone areas.
Five children, three from St. Bernard, one from Tomas Oppus town and another from Sogod town, were killed on Sunday at the height of incessant rains in the province.
The fatalities included 5-year-old Maria Fatima Discaryal and her year-old brother Rodel, 3-year-old Jordan Lakipon, 10-year-old Ricabelle Montederamos and 11-year-old Patrick Pelaez.
The bodies of Discaryal, her brother and Lakipon were found buried in mud near their house in Barangay Bolod-Bolod, St. Bernard. A portion of the nearby mountain crashed into the houses of the Discaryal and Lakipon families who are neighbors.
Ricabelle Montederamos, 10, and Patrick Pelaez, 11, drowned while crossing a flooded rice field in Barangay Maanyag in Tomas Oppus town and a river in Barangay Pancho Villa in Sogod town, respectively.
Lessons from Guinsaugon
?This was the result of the people?s hardheadedness,? Mercado told the Inquirer on Monday when asked why there were casualties though early warning systems had been installed in certain areas and lessons were learned from the Guinsaugon landslide tragedy in 2006.
The President said his officials had been monitoring the situation in the affected areas. ?The Number One priority is that the needs of people there are addressed,? he said.
He directed Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, who is the concurrent chief of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Commission, to ?find out exactly why there were two people who died in the same place that in 2006 resulted in over a thousand casualties.?
?So we will review this. I?m also going to task the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Department of Public Works and Highways, among others, why a relocation (had been done in St. Bernard) and there were still deaths,? Mr. Aquino said.
Peak of La Niña
Yumul said the abnormally heavy showers that northeastern Mindanao felt could have been aggravated by the La Niña phenomenon, which the Philippines will experience until May. Pagasa has warned that the peak of La Niña in the country will be felt during the months of January and February.
La Niña refers to the abnormal cooling of ocean surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific. In the Philippines, the La Niña season is characterized by heavier rains than usual. With reports from Franklin A. Caliguid, Frinston L. Lim, Ryan D. Rosauro, Inquirer Mindanao; Jani Arnaiz, Inquirer Visayas; Christine O. Avendaño and Tarra Quismundo; AFP