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3 dead, dozens missing in Mindanao areas as storm nears PH

/ 07:17 PM June 13, 2012

An outrigger is placed on top of the break water in anticipation of big waves Wednesday, , in Manila, Philippines. The onset of the typhoon season brought heavy rains and strong waves in some part of the country killing at least two people and leaving 10 missing while rescuers searched for 80 more fishermen after monsoon rains inundated southern villages. (AP Photo/Pat Roque)

DAVAO CITY–Three people were confirmed dead while dozens of others, mostly fishermen out at sea, went missing as rain-induced flashfloods, landslides and huge waves hit five Mindanao provinces and several cities, officials said Wednesday.

Benito Ramos, executive director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, told a Cotabato City-based radio station that the floods and the storm surges were caused by bad weather as the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration reported about a storm that may enter the Philippine area of responsibility in the next two days.

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Ramos said the floods have affected Bukidnon, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao and Sarangani, and Cotabato City.

Huge waves also battered coastal areas in Sarangani province.

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“We already advised all local officials to prepare. Pagasa reported that the typhoon will enter the country by Thursday or Friday,” he said.

In its bulletin issued 5 a.m. Wednesday, the weather bureau said the shallow low pressure area was estimated to be 210 kilometers east of Northern Mindanao.

“Flashfloods and landslides alert remain over the entire region as scattered to widespread rains will be experienced due to the existing weather system,” Pagasa said.

In Sarangani province, 59-year-old Segapo Cabalinding, Orlando Mata and Primo Ortega, drowned after big waves hit coastal villages in Glan town, according to Mayor Victor James Yap Sr.

The flooding also resulted in the evacuation of 500 families to a gymnasium. The flood waters begun to rise on Tuesday morning and some roads and bridges were destroyed, he said.

In Maasim town, Mayor Arturo Lawa reported that as of 7 a.m. Wednesday, 118 persons were reported missing in eight affected coastal villages of his municipality.

Lawa identified these villages as Kamanga (29 missing), Poblacion (24), Kabatiol (19), Kablacan (19), Tinoto (7), Colon (11), Kanalo (7), Pananag (2).

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“As of 7 a.m. Wednesday, we were able to rescue 27 other fishermen. All the 118 missing victims were fishermen, whose fishing vessels capsized Tuesday due to strong wind and big waves in Sarangani Bay,” Lawa said.

But Sarangani Gov. Miguel Rene Dominguez said more than 40 fishermen had been plucked out of sea all over the province by Navy and Philippine Coast Guard operatives since Tuesday night.

“Rescue mission is (on)going … for others who were reported to be missing,” he said.

Dennis Domingo, information officer of the Department of Social Welfare and Development in Central Mindanao, said hundreds of families were displaced regionwide as villages were submerged in floods and battered by huge waves.

In Maguindanao and Cotabato City, floods also displaced over 6,000 families, mostly in Sultan Kudarat town, the Office of Civil Defense said Wednesday.

“Our men on the field reported some 5,507 affected families in Sultan Kudarat alone and we are closely monitoring the weather condition,” said retired Army General Loreto Rirao, OCD head for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Rirao said the rain-induced floods submerged 11 low-lying villages of Sultan Kudarat.

In Davao del Sur, a search and rescue operation was also launched as seven fishermen went missing in high seas off Digos City.

Rey Caballero, City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council chair, said they were hoping the fishermen had drifted to a safe area.

Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao Mayor Tocao Mastura said the floods proved that the multimillion Simuay River diversion canal project undertaken by a private contractor and supervised by the Department of Public Works and Highways could not protect his constituents.

The diversion canal was constructed for P500 million under the Arroyo government’s flood control programs.

Cotabato City Vice Mayor Muslimim Sema said he also wanted an investigation into the P49-million dredging project abandoned by Manila-based contractor Cuerpo Construction Co.

Officials said they have instituted plans in anticipation of floods and other weather-related disasters.

Cotabato City Administrator Cynthia Sayadi said an evacuation plan had long been mapped out and will be carried through the help of social welfare and health personnel, village officials, the police and the military.

Rirao said residents near river tributaries were also asked to conduct frequent monitoring of water levels.

“When the water consistently rises, they should leave their homes,” he said.

Evacuation has also been ordered for those leaving along river banks in Kidapawan City, according to Mayor Rodolfo Gantuangco.

In Compostela Valley Province, evacuation plans were also crafted for areas identified as geohazards, according to Raul Villocino, the provincial disaster officer.

“We are constantly monitoring the weather and closely coordinating with disaster officials in Compostela Valley’s 11 municipalities. So far, rain’s minimal. Everything’s normal,” Villocino told the Inquirer by mobile phone.

He said a system has long been in place so flood and landslide warning and advisories could be disseminated effectively by municipal and village officials.

In Davao Oriental, search and rescue (SAR) units in every police station have been put on alert for easier mobilization in case of flooding and landslides, Senior Supt. Perpetuo Macion, provincial police chief said.

Macion said the PNP SAR teams would coordinate with the municipal disaster councils as they have the needed search and rescue equipment.

Flood-prone towns in Davao del Norte were also up in their preparations, according to officials.

Mayor Lolita Moral of the rice-producing municipality of Braulio Dujali, said rescue volunteers have been trained in disaster-preparedness, “making us prepared anytime.”

Ramos said they were hoping that the storm will not make a landfall. However, if the direction will change, the public should follow instructions from their local disaster units.

He said the Philippine Army, Philippine Navy and Philippine Air Force had been alerted also.

In Davao City, The Mines and Geosciences Bureau had ordered the relocation of 40 households following a landslide that killed a one-year old girl in Marilog on Monday.

The MGB admitted that area was overlooked during the government’s geohazard mapping. (Reports from Aquiles Z. Zonio, Carlo Agamon, Orlando Dinoy, Germelina Lacorte, Frinston Lim, Jeoffrey Maitem, Charlie Señase, Inquirer Mindanao)

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