CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/24 December) – Some churches in the city may not be able to hold Aguinaldo masses on Christmas Eve as these were converted into evacuation centers to accommodate some 36,000 families affected by the floods induced by Tropical Storm Sendong, Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Antonio Ledesma said.
In his pastoral letter, Ledesma said the flood victims sought shelter in many chapels and churches bringing with them their animals.
He said that in one chapel the animals were even tied to the altars, scandalizing lay leaders.
“Lay leaders were scandalized until the parish priest reminded them that this must been the same situation in the stable in the first Christmas night,” Ledesma said.
The archdiocese is now in the forefront of giving relief aid to the affected families, tying up with the Department of Social Welfare Development, Xavier University and the 4th Infantry Division.
Ledesma’s pastoral letter was full of tales of the tragedy that befell the city early morning of December 17.
The archbishop mourned for the 674 people who drowned in the rampaging flood waters which some witnesses said reached 15 feet.
“There were accounts on how a mother clutching the hands of her two children was able to escape the flood, only to lose another child whose pleas for help could be heard receding in the darkness of the night,” the Archbishop said.
“Others died in their sleep inside their homes,” he added.
Ledesma said entire villages in Isla de Oro and Sitio Cala-cala were leveled by the flood.
He said practically every resident in Cagayan de Oro lost a relative or personal friend. He said many schoolchildren lost a classmate or a teacher.
“A number of unidentified victims still await a decent burial in a common resting place,” he said.
The archbishop noted that 14 evacuation centers in the city were slowly trying to make food distribution efficient, an improvement from the initial chaos last Saturday.
At the same time, Ledesma praised residents and companies who volunteered and shared in the relief operations.
He also appreciated President Benigno Aquino III for standing firm on the decision not to allow affected families to go back to Isla de Oro and Sitio Cala-cala in Barangay Tibasak.
He said planners and environmentalists should look into a broader, new perspective on the river basin of Cagayan de Oro to prevent a repeat of last Saturday’s devastating flood. (Froilan Gallardo/MindaNews)