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MEMORY OF SIEGE

In battle-weary Marawi, bomb clearing stirs panic

/ 05:06 AM June 28, 2019

STREET PATROL Soldiers patrol the streets near the heavily damaged Bato Ali Mosque in Marawi City after the military defeated Islamic State-linked groups that laid siege to the Lanao del Sur capital in 2017. —RICHEL V. UMEL

ILIGAN CITY—First, there was an explosion. Then the sight of a thick smoke billowing from a section of the most affected area (MAA) in Marawi City had shaken residents on Wednesday, summoning again the horrors of the five-month war in 2017 that had reduced the once bustling Islamic city into rubble.

“I went out of the classroom because I thought the roof of the building had collapsed,” said a teacher who was holding classes at the Mindanao State University around 2:30 p.m.

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“The whole building shook. When I got back [to class], my students were saying, ‘Ma’am, Abdul had collapsed,’” she said, referring to one of her students who fainted.

It turned out that the military was detonating a 500-pound bomb found in one of the buildings in the MAA, or ground zero, a National Housing Authority (NHA) official said.

Demolition

Roderick Ybañez, NHA project field officer, said the Joint Task Group Builder, composed of the Army and the private contractor’s explosive ordnance team, was supposed to demolish one of the buildings within the MAA when the bomb was found.

Marawi Mayor Majul Gandamra, who felt the impact of the blast while in a meeting with visitors from the Asian Development Bank, said a glass window panel of the Marawi City Hall was broken and students in a nearby school were immediately sent home.

Residents said they were not aware of an advisory that an unexploded bomb was about to be detonated that day.

The explosion, which was heard from as far as the nearby towns of Lanao del Sur province, was too loud that it caused panic among residents.

Col. Madzgani Mukaram, Lanao del Sur police director, however, said they had issued an advisory through radio announcements and social media posts. “But some people did not hear or read it or those who were aware of it did not expect that the explosion was that loud,” he said.

“We always send advisories to the public through radio and social media,” he said. “There will be warning: a long siren before the disposal and two short sirens after that,” he said.

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