‘Sendong’ death toll may reach 3,000 | Inquirer News

‘Sendong’ death toll may reach 3,000

/ 01:55 AM December 24, 2011

It’s going to be “Silent Night” on Christmas Eve for thousands of people who lost their loved ones in the worst storm to hit the country this year.

Many households in the flood-ravaged cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan are grieving. There will be no fireworks, not even firecrackers there. Instead, candles will be lit in houses where power has yet to be restored, and in funeral wakes.

For the first time since Tropical Storm “Sendong” struck on Dec. 16, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) admitted that the missing may be more than the 49 reported to President Aquino on his trip to the disaster zone on Tuesday—four days after the storm struck.


The fear is that the death toll may top 3,000.


On Friday, the NDRRMC put the number of missing at 1,979 and the confirmed death toll at 1,080.

Still, NDRRMC Executive Director Benito Ramos continued to downplay casualty figures.

“We have stopped estimating how many are still missing so that it will not be misleading. We do not know if some of those missing are among the remains that we have recovered,” Ramos told reporters in Manila in a phone interview from Cagayan de Oro City.

The agriculture department estimated damage to crops at P310 million.

Somber air


In six evacuation centers crammed with 20,000 people in Cagayan de Oro, a mix of desperation and a subdued Christmas spirit was in the air on Friday.

For single-mother Nova Lopena, there was so much to thank for. “We lost our house, our little shelter, but he is the greatest gift for this year,” the 17-year-old said of her 2-week-old baby Hadji Rey.

At West City Central School, Josefa Mandula, 66, was waiting for her son to arrive with food packs from the relief line. Mandula’s house was swept away by the rampaging flood, but nothing could stop her from celebrating with her family intact in the evacuation center.

“We can prepare sardines, pancit or misua so that we can have something to eat,” Mandula said.

Said Imelda Lantawan, whose family was sharing a room in the school with 25 other families: “It would be a great Christmas after all, with new friends we can share experiences with.”

In one corner, Cesar Legazpi said that despite the tragedy, there was reason to be thankful for the second chance in life.

“While others perished, we need to go on and smile and honor their memories. We must be thankful for the chance we are given because many did not have that chance,” Legazpi said.

Bleak Christmas

Flora Abellanosa, 65, said celebrating Christmas at the evacuation center would give survivors a chance to “reflect on their lives, their blessings and losses, and the chances we are given and the changes we are going to make.”

There are some who feel a bleak Christmas.

Flora May Abutan, 18 and seven months pregnant, was looking forward to celebrating Christmas this year with her new husband before Sendong struck. She was busy decorating their home in Barangay Macasandig before it was demolished by the flood.

“There will be no Christmas for us here … I do not know what we are going to do on that day,” she said.

Vilma Laturino, an evacuee at Xavier Heights in Upper Balulang, said she was thankful that her husband and her five children survived Friday’s disaster.

“Our Christmas celebration will be sad because we lost our home.

It is really painful to be celebrating it in an evacuation center, but at least my family is safe,” she said.

Reminder of Christ

At the flood-stricken village of Balulang, Teresita Palacio was still clearing debris in front of her house. She still could not say where and how her family would spend Christmas.

“But it will come. It serves to remind us of the sufferings of Jesus, whose birthday we are celebrating,” Palacio said.

At Villa Angela Subdivision, Carmelita Sabinay could only stare at the Christmas gifts she had wrapped last week. They were now scattered on the mud-splattered floor.

The Christmas tree was in the garbage dump outside. But the lantern still hangs in the garage.

“The Christmas tree was beyond repair, so it has to go, but not the spirit it represents,” Sabinay said. Reports from Bobby Lagsa and Cai Panlilio, Inquirer Mindanao; and Dona Z. Pazzibugan and TJ Burgonio in Manila

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First posted 12:49 am | Saturday, December 24th, 2011

TAGS: evacuees, iligan city

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