‘Agaton’ weakens, but floods remain
Tropical Depression Agaton has weakened into a low pressure area (LPA) but it may still bring more rains and misery to flooded areas in Mindanao, where 60 people have died.
Damage to agriculture and infrastructure has reached P328.8 million, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.
It’s a water world in many parts of Agusan del Sur province as thousands of residents are trapped and isolated by the sudden rise of floodwaters brought by incessant heavy rains since Sunday evening.
Hardest hit were Esperanza and Talacogon towns where officials reported there was no more land that could be seen in the poblacion and neighboring villages.
Residents trapped by the rising floodwater were left with no choice but to wait for rescue boats.
Caught by surprise
Nida Manpatilan, municipal administrator of Esperanza, said the entire poblacion was flooded since the heavy rains on Sunday night while many people were packing up to go to the evacuation centers at the public school and municipal gym.
“We were caught by surprise,” Manpatilan said as she expressed fear the rising floodwater would sweep away the evacuation centers on Sunday.
In its 11 a.m. update on Monday, the weather bureau said the center of the LPA was spotted 400 kilometers east southeast of Davao City or 455 km east of General Santos City.
All public storm warning signals have been lowered although the weather disturbance may still bring moderate to heavy rains to northern Mindanao, Davao and the Caraga region, according to the Philippine Astronomical, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa).
Pagasa weather forecaster Jun Galang said Agaton did not make landfall due to the amihan (northeast monsoon), which pushed it away from the country.
Agaton was almost stationary and would remain as an LPA in the next two days, or until Wednesday. By then, it may break up, Galang said.
“As of Monday, we can expect generally light to moderate rains, except in Cagayan de Oro, which is experiencing moderate to heavy rains,” he said.
The country is expected to have better weather by Friday, save for some isolated rain showers and thunderstorms in the Visayas and Mindanao.
For almost two weeks, rain has caused flooding and landslides in several provinces in Mindanao.
In Caraga alone, floods and mudslides spawned by nearly two weeks of relentless rains claimed the lives of 22 people and displaced more than 50,000 families, or about 308,000 people.
The latest fatality was identified as a certain Kakang Danago, who drowned on Monday morning while trying to cross a raging creek in Barangay (village) Bugsokan in Butuan City.
Liza Mazo, chief of the Office of Civil Defense in Caraga, said a fisherman from Surigao del Norte province remained missing and 27 others had been injured.
Mazo said the floods and mudslides hit some 308 villages from all five provinces of the region—the two Agusan and Surigao provinces and Dinagat.
Mazo said some 308,000 displaced people were housed at 371 evacuations centers spread throughout the region. The number of evacuees is likely to rise because the rains haven’t stopped.
Mazo said forced evacuations were implemented in high-risk areas, particularly low-lying riverside villages, and coastal areas.
Butuan City Mayor Ferdinand Amante said floodwaters inundated 86 of the city’s 88 urban and rural barangays, forcing 10,000 families to flee to safer grounds.
“The impact of flooding is unexpected. The number of affected families is rising,” Amante said.
Classes in all levels, work in the public and the private sectors and air and seaport operations were suspended.
The water supply in most parts of Butuan was cut off when the water service company turned off its pipes for fear dirt would seep into the water supply.
State of calamity
A state of calamity has been declared in Butuan, Surigao del Norte, Dinagat Islands and Agusan del Norte provinces after landslides and floods submerged thousands of houses, swamped farmlands, destroyed bridges and road networks, and toppled power lines.
Surigao del Norte Gov. Sol Matugas said the island of Siargao and several towns in the mainland suffered power loss after the electric utility there shut off its supply due to strong winds.
She said she had ordered the suspension of classes in elementary, secondary and college levels throughout the province.
In Surigao City, sea travel was suspended.
In Agusan del Norte, Erma Suyo, chief of the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, said 80 percent of the province’s population was severely affected after the country’s second largest lake, Mainit, and major rivers overflowed.
Suyo said remote villages in the upland towns of Las Nieves and Carmen were isolated. “Our rescue teams are having difficulty reaching the villages due to strong river currents and deep floodwaters.”
As landslides hit, river tributaries and lakes overflowed, and major road networks in the region, like Surigao-Butuan Road and Agusan-Davao Road, were closed to traffic.
Surigao-Davao Coastal Road was also closed to traffic after landslides hit Barobo town in Surigao del Sur.
In Compostela Valley in the Davao region, the number of evacuees has swelled as over a thousand families more headed for evacuation centers.
At least 1,305 families huddled in schools, gymnasiums and other sturdy buildings as flooding and landslide threatened nine villages in Compostela town, according to municipal administrator Jess Marron.
In nearby Monkayo town, over a hundred families in at least two villages also fled on Monday morning as the water level of the Agusan River continued to rise, said Joan Pintal, Monkayo town spokesperson.
Other towns along Compostela Valley’s coastline also have evacuees. Mabini has 99 families and Nabunturan, over a dozen, said Senior Supt. Camilo Cascolan, Compostela Valley police chief.
In Cagayan de Oro City, several roads, including the national highway, and Lim Ket Kai Mall in the village of Lapasan were flooded following nonstop rain on Sunday.
Maricel Casino-Rivera, city information officer, said some 675 families had moved to 14 evacuation centers as rivers started to rise to critical levels.
The Bitan-ag Creek, which traverses the national highway, overflowed on Sunday and again on Monday morning, disrupting the flow of transport and stranding hundreds of commuters.
Ana Cañeda, chief of the Office of Civil Defense in Northern Mindanao, said that in Misamis Occidental, six towns and Ozamiz City suspended classes in all levels.
In a radio interview, Loreto Rirao, director of the Office of Civil Defense in Southern Mindanao, said the LPA was still dumping heavy rains.
The delivery of relief services in several areas, including the Typhoon “Pablo”-devastated towns of Cateel, Boston and Baganga was still a big challenge after three major bridges were destroyed. Soldiers and local police were using motorized boats, makeshift rafts and pulleys to deliver aid to isolated areas.
The environmentalist group Panalipdan Southern Mindanao said the deforestation in the region was due to decades of massive logging and mining activities.
Manpatilan said thousands of residents in the villages of Tandang Sora, Oromica, Sta. Fe and Concordia were isolated since rescue boats could not go to these upstream river areas because of strong currents.
There are parts of the poblacion near the banks of Wawa River where the water level rose to 12 feet, she said.
It was the same scene in another river town of Talacogon where the poblacion and two nearby villages were totally flooded.
Armando Gomez, provincial public information officer, said officials in Talacogon said in a report that this was the worst flood that residents of the falcatta-logs-producing town had experienced in many years.
Residents on floating houses in the villages of Maharlika, Sabang Gibong and La Flora in the overflowing Agusan Marsh, who were also isolated, feared that their homes might be swept by strong currents.
Talacogon Mayor Jesryl Masendo personally led the rescue efforts of residents of Del Monte village.
In nearby Loreto town, Mayor Dario Otaza said seven villages, including the poblacion, were flooded. He expected more villages to be affected in the coming days even if there was no more rain as large volumes of water would hit them from the runoff from the higher ground of the Agusan Marsh.
The highway town of San Francisco was not spared as floodwater swept through five villages and residents sought temporary shelter at the municipal gym and Church of Latter Day Saints.
Stranded at ports
In four ports of Bicol, Mimaropa and the Central Visayas, close to 1,200 shipping passengers were stranded due to Agaton, according to the spokesman of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).
Commander Armand Balilo, also chief of the PCG’s public affairs office, reported on Monday that the stranded passengers were recorded in the following ports: Bulan, Sorsogon, 227; Pasacao, Camarines Sur, 180; Masbate, 29; and Cebu City, 762.
He also disclosed that a total of 42 interisland vessels and 34 motorboats were not allowed to sail due to bad weather in these areas.
The ships are loaded with 607 rolling cargoes, among others, he added.—With reports from Chris V. Panganiban, Franklin A. Caliguid, Frinston Lim, Bobby Lagsa, Karlos Manlupig and Chris Panganiban, Inquirer Mindanao; and Dona Z. Pazzibugan and Jerry E. Esplanada in Manila
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