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STORMY More than 100 households are affected by a sudden storm surge that hit Linamon, Lanao del Norte, on Tuesday night. RICHEL V. UMEL/INQUIRER MINDANAO





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9 dead in flash floods, storm surges

By Inquirer Bureaus
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 04:37:00 01/15/2009

Filed Under: Weather, Flood, Meteorological disaster

MANILA, Philippines?Flash floods, storm surges and landslides triggered by heavy rains across the Philippines have killed at least nine people and displaced nearly 200,000, relief agency officials said on Wednesday.

Nine other people were missing, while two others have been injured, the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) said.

Three Philippine Airlines planes and two Cebu Pacific planes bound for Cagayan de Oro City were not able to leave the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminals 2 and 3 in Manila Wednesday morning.

The tail-end of a cold front sweeping through the country?s eastern seaboard had brought heavy rains across 11 provinces from northern Luzon to the eastern sections of the Visayas and Mindanao since last week, the NDCC said.

The agency said 37,889 families or about 191,586 people had been ?affected.?

Parts of Misamis Occidental and Misamis Oriental remain submerged, while continuing heavy rains have forced the cancellation of air passenger flights and services by small domestic carriers.

Schools also remain closed, while swollen rivers in Agusan del Norte have led to flooding.

Landslides and flooding were reported in eastern Bicol region, while small motorized fishing vessels capsized near Capiz province.

State of emergency plea

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was asked Wednesday to declare a state of emergency in Misamis Oriental, including Cagayan de Oro City.

?The situation there is unprecedented ? I am appealing to the President to declare a state of emergency there and provide assistance to the people,? Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. said in a phone interview.

Strong winds, heavy rains and waves as high as 2 meters sent thousands of people fleeing from coastlines and riverbanks in three cities and 16 towns in Misamis Oriental province on Tuesday.

More rains expected

Weather officials predicted more rains in the area in the coming days.

At least three people, including a 6-year-old boy, were reported dead. Two others were missing.

Authorities said many people in coastal villages were trapped on rooftops when the floods rose until dawn Wednesday.

Panic set in when text messages spread about a tornado. A whirlwind was confirmed in Alubijid town in Misamis Oriental, but no casualties were reported.

40,000 evacuees

Provincial officials said at least 40,000 people had been evacuated to shelters. Most carried nothing but just the clothes they were wearing, they said.

?What have I done wrong that this happened to my family?? asked Edwin Sumahan. His family was among the hundreds of people evacuated from Isla Delta, a small island straddling the swollen Cagayan River.

Zenaida Emiliano said her family had to flee to higher ground for the second time in a week due to the floods.

?We just returned home. We did not sleep last night due to incessant rains,? she sighed as the rising water crept into her home.

Provincial administrator Patrick Gabutina said that while food supply was still enough, the evacuees also needed medicines, beddings, kitchen wares and potable water.

The Provincial Disaster Coordinating Council (PDCC) reported that the bridge connecting Medina town and Gingoog City had been rendered impassable by the floods.

Power supply disrupted

?Communications are also difficult in the towns of Balingasag, Talisayan, Medina and Gingoog City as the generator that had been powering the Smart communication tower in Gingoog City conked out due to the floods,? Teddy Sabugaa of the PDCC said.

Damage to infrastructure was initially placed at P50 million.

Big waves swept more than 50 houses in villages along the Macajalar Bay.

?Where will I go now?? said Maria Sarpenas, one of the victims in Barangay Cugman.

Jojo Tadlas, of Barangay Bayabas, said the residents were scared when they saw waves as high as 3 meters battering houses. ?It was the worst one I have seen since I lived here 20 years ago,? he said.

Rudy Menes, president of the Cagayan de Oro Chamber of Commerce, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that the floods also spelled losses to businesses.

?Establishments are flooded, workers could not report to work. They are forced to close shop in the meantime while the weather is still wreaking havoc,? Menes said.

Storm surge

Sabugaa said officials were appealing to public and private agencies and individuals for help in meeting the immediate needs of the victims. Donors can contact the PDCC communication center at 08822-726736.

In Linamon, Lanao del Norte, a storm surge damaged more than 100 houses along the coastal areas on Tuesday night.

Falling coconut trees also cut power supply to some areas of the town, Linamon Mayor Noel Deano told the Inquirer.

?The engineering team of Lanao del Sur Electric Cooperative is still working to restore power,? he said.

A state of calamity was declared Wednesday.

In Iligan City, more than 300 families were also affected by a storm surge and flash flood, according to Mayor Lawrence Cruz.

Cruz said a rescue team was also deployed to help residents of Bayud Island, who were trapped by rising waters.

In Sulu, some 1,700 people fled their homes when big waves hit the coastal village of Simbahan in Pangutaran town on Sunday night.

?They were not able to bring with them their belongings,? Pangutaran Mayor Ahmad Nanoh said.

Abdulwattan Mohamad, social welfare provincial director, said 60 houses were destroyed and 99 others were damaged by the waves.

The victims are taking shelter at the Simbahan Elementary School.

Northern Samar

In Northern Samar, the PDCC reported that over 11,000 families were displaced by flooding.

Fourteen fishermen who were reported missing in Leyte and Samar have now returned home, the regional office of the Office of Civil Defense said.

As of Wednesday, flooding still submerged five of Northern Samar?s 24 towns, according to Arnel Delorino, PDCC administrative officer. These were Bobon, Catarman, Lavezares, Lope de Vega and Mondragon, which was the hardest hit.

Two persons drowned in Catarman, according to a police report. They were identified as Victor Castillo, 51, of Barangay Narra in Poblacion, and Rita Bulan, of Barangay Hinatad.

This brought to eight the number of fatalities reported after days of incessant heavy rains that caused floods and landslides in the province.

Gov. Raul Daza and PDCC members had yet to decide on whether to declare a state of calamity in the province.

Stranded

A total of 4,932 passengers onboard cars, trucks, buses and boats were stranded in the ports of Matnog in Sorsogon, Virac in Catanduanes, Legazpi City and Tabaco in Albay as of 11 a.m. Wednesday due to waves as high as six meters, the Philippine Coast Guard reported.

Reports from Christine O. Avendaño and Jerome Aning in Manila; Julie S. Alipala, Ma. Cecilia Rodriguez, Grace Albasin and Richel Umel, Inquirer Mindanao; Joey Gabieta and Rachel V. Arnaiz, Inquirer Visayas; Ephraim Aguilar, Inquirer Southern Luzon; and Agence France-Presse



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