Heavy rains, landslides leave 13 dead

Posted on January 14, 2014

DAVAO CITY -- At least 13 people are confirmed dead due to landslides and massive flooding in a number of areas in southern Philippines on Sunday, local government officials said yesterday.

Loreto Rirao, civil defense chief for Davao region, said 11 of the fatalities were caused by landslides that hit mining communities in Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental provinces.

Mr. Rirao said two people drowned after floodwater swamped communities in Bayugan City in Agusan del Sur province.

The landslides and floods injured 10 others while 14 people were reported missing.

The flooding and landslides spawned by days of continuous rains due to a lingering low pressure area also displaced some 12,000 people in southern Philippines.

In Compostela Valley province alone, provincial police chief Senior Supt. Camilo Cascolan said some 1,200 families or about 1,500 individuals have been evacuated.

Officials fear the rains may worsen the already-harsh living conditions for survivors of typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan), many of whom are still lodged in temporary shelters after their homes were destroyed in the Nov. 8 typhoon.

Government weather forecaster Manny Mendoza said the heavy rains would continue for two to three days, primarily affecting the islands of Samar and Leyte which bore the brunt of Yolanda, one of the most intense typhoons on record.

Yolanda, one of the worst natural disasters to hit the Philippines, left nearly 7,000 people dead or missing as it flattened whole towns in Central Philippines with strong winds and tsunami-like storm surges, some of which exceeded 10 feet high.

The downpours have pounded the southern and central Philippines for three days as a low-pressure area -- an atmospheric phenomenon that causes heavy rains -- came closer to Mindanao, finally making landfall in Surigao del Sur province on Sunday.

National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) Spokesperson Major Reynaldo B. Balido, in a text message to BusinessWorld yesterday, said 34 individuals were injured due to the prevailing low pressure area (LPA) over Mindanao.

Out of this total, Mr. Balido said 11 of those who were injured were from Compostela Valley, while the 23 were from Davao Oriental.

The NDRRMC update yesterday said the LPA, the first to enter the country in 2014, affected 132,379 individuals or 26,801 families in Northern Mindanao, Davao Region and Caraga.

The same update from the national disaster council said that as of 9 p.m. of Sunday, there were a total of 4,217 stranded travelers in the ports of Matnog in Sorsogon, and in Cebu City.

“There are a total of 22 roads and 13 bridges not passable due to landslides and extensive flooding,” the NDRRMC update said.

Some of these roads and bridges are Barangay Sagayen Road, Sagayen Road, Canatan Road, and Causwagan Road in Asuncion, Davao del Norte; Bailey Bridge, and Naboc Road in Monkayo Compostela Valley; and P4 Andap Road, Temporary Bridge, Pagsilangan Road, Andap Road and Provincial Road in New Bataan, Compostela Valley.

The NDRRMC said the LPA has destroyed at least 138 houses in Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley, and 113 others sustained damage.

The same NDRRMC update said that as of yesterday, a total of 8,284 hectares of agricultural crops were damaged.

The national disaster council also reported seven landslide incidents as of yesterday. These were in Kapatagan, Lanao del Norte; New Corella, Tagum City, and Cateel in Davao del Norte; Butuan City; Lanuza, Surigao del Sur; and Dinagat Islands.

Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental are the two provinces which took the brunt of typhoon Pablo (international name: Bopha) in 2012 where at least 1,000 people died.

To assist victims of the excessive raining and flooding in Mindanao, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), in a statement yesterday, said it has set aside more than P33 million worth of emergency relief resources for Mindanao.

This include P2.64 million of standby funds; family food packs worth P6.25 million; and other food and non-food items amounting to P24.6 million.

“As of 12 noon [yesterday], 34 evacuation centers remain open to accommodate the 1,668 displaced families or 7,958 persons. Of the evacuation centers, 26 are in Caraga serving 1,080 families, three in Northern Mindanao providing temporary shelter to 116 families, and five in Davao Region housing 2,465 families,” the Social Welfare department said.

“DSWD Field Offices in the affected regions continue to coordinate with city/municipal social workers to determine and respond to the additional needs of the affected families,”it added.

In its 4 p.m. weather bulletin yesterday, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical & Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said the LPA was estimated at 45 kilometers (km) east of Dipolog City.

“This weather system will bring cloudy skies with moderate to occasionally heavy rain showers and thunderstorms which may trigger flash floods and landslides over the Visayas and the regions of Northern Mindanao and Caraga,” PAGASA said.

Bicol region, MIMAROPA and the rest of Mindanao will have cloudy skies with light to moderate rain showers and thunderstorms, the PAGASA update added.

“Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon will be cloudy with isolated light rains,” the state weather bureau said.

The same weather update noted that the coastal waters throughout the archipelago will be moderate to rough.

In its 5 p.m. gale warning, the state weather bureau said strong gale force winds is expected to affect the northern and eastern seaboards of Northern Luzon, eastern seaboards of Central Luzon, the seaboards of Southern Luzon and the eastern seaboard of Visayas.

Sea condition in the eastern seaboard of Visayas, seaboards of southern Luzon, eastern seaboard of northern and central Luzon and the northern seaboard of northern Luzon will be rough to very rough with wave heights ranging from 3.4 meters to 4.5 meters.

“Fishing boats and other small sea crafts are advised not to venture out into the sea while larger sea vessels are alerted against big waves,” PAGASA warned.

PAGASA weather forecaster Aldczar Aurelio said in a telephone interview with BusinessWorld yesterday that there is a possibility that the LPA will develop into a typhoon in the coming days.

He added that the LPA, which will be named Agaton if it becomes a storm, may take two paths going out of the country.

“The LPA may move westward to Sulu area and then may go to Palawan area before exiting. It could also recurve to Eastern and Central Visayas then pass by the Bicol region before going out of the country,” he said.

“It will continue to bring extensive rains which may cause landslides and flash floods in the areas within its path. We strongly urge residents to take precautionary measures,” he said.

In Tacloban City, the continuous rains has caused flooding in typhoon-stricken areas in Eastern Visayas, the Office of the Civil Defense (OCD) reported.

Bhenlie F. Linde, OCD-8 operations officer, said they were also verifying reports of the death of a three-year-old girl.

Data gathering on the impact of the weather disturbance has been constrained by the absence of local disaster risk reduction and management officers (DRRMO), who are in Cebu in preparation for the conduct of a post-disaster needs assessment in areas hit by typhoon Yolanda. Mr. Linde said local government units reported floods in Tacloban and Palo in Leyte as well as in Eastern Samar.

In the storm-ravaged town of Palo, hundreds of residents in the low-lying villages of Saint Michael, Cangumbang, Hibacaan and Tacoranga have been affected by floods.

In Tacloban, the low-lying areas of V&G Subdivision, Marasbaras, Diit, Abucay, Kassel Homes, Nula-Nula, and Tent City in the city’s San Jose district were also inundated. A portion of the national road in Barangay Kahupian near the Agas Agas Bridge in Sogod, Southern Leyte was closed to traffic due to a landslide that left a 30-meter portion of the national road impassable until Sunday night. “The road has been passable to all types of vehicles Monday morning after clearing operations that ended late Sunday night,” Mr. Linde explained.

Residents of landslide-prone villages of Catmon, Cabagawan, Mahayahay, Tambis and Bolodbolod in Saint Bernard, Southern Leyte were evacuated yesterday morning to safe areas.

In 2006, more than 1,000 residents were killed by a landslide that buried the entire village of Guinsaugon. “Local authorities are still counting the number of evacuees in Saint Bernard,” Mr. Linde added.

In Eastern Samar, Maslog Mayor Septemio C. Santiago said in a text message that more than 600 persons took shelter at the town’s farmer’s center due to flooding.

Also submerged are the villages of Hinolaso, Villahermosa, Buenavista, Magsaysay, Cagtabon, Aroganga, Libertad and San Isidro in Dolores, Eastern Samar.

The OCD regional office said ports in the region were all operational as of Monday morning despite the rain. -- Imee Charlee C. Delavin in Manila and Sarwell Q. Meniano in Tacloban City with Reuters and AFP