SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews/04 January) – Aside from causing floods, moderate to heavy rains in Northeastern Mindanao since last week due to the tail-end of a cold front have also affected the flow of potable water to 16,000 households in this city.
Benjamin Ensomo Jr., Surigao Metropolitan Water District (SMWD) general manager, said water supply had been cut off as of 10 a.m. Sunday and remained irregular until Monday especially in elevated areas, although it began resuming in small quantities today.
Ensomo explained that SMWD lacked water treatment facilities making it easy for floodwaters to seep into the source, and continuing the supply would endanger public health.
Turbidity, or muddiness, he said, is caused by small-scale mining and logging activities at the city’s watershed areas, which supposedly are protected zones.
Meanwhile, the regional office of the Mines and Geo-Sciences Bureau (MGB) warned people living in both low-lying and mountainous areas that continuous rains could cause flashfloods and landslides.
Alilio Ensomo, Caraga MGB regional director, urged people living near mountains and those engaged in small-scale mining activities to stay away from the mountainsides as these are prone to landslides.
For his part, Surigao del Norte Vice Governor Arturo Carlos A. Egay Jr. said contingency measures were already in place for critical areas that are vulnerable to floods and landslides. The province, he said, had instructed the 20 municipalities to ready their mitigation efforts.
The Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) said the tail-end of a cold front will continue to bring thunderstorms and widespread rains over Northeastern Mindanao.
Thousands of residents in the Caraga Region began fleeing their homes since Sunday as continuous rains flooded several low-lying towns and barangays and those near riverbanks. Caraga Region covers the provinces of Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur and the cities of Butuan, Surigao and Bislig.
Floods and landslides also occurred in parts of Compostela Valley (Region 11), Lanao del Norte (Region 10) and Maguindanao (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao). (See related story)
On Sunday afternoon, Surigao City Mayor Ernesto T. Matugas told hundreds of dwellers in low-lying villages and riverbank communities to evacuate. As waters rose further in the evening due to high tide, the mayor ordered the forced evacuation of residents who insisted to remain in their homes. The evacuees were housed in covered courts and public multi-purpose buildings.
The City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council said floods submerged at least 18 barangays in the mainland. Worst hit are Barangays San Juan, Sabang, Rizal, Togbongon, Washington and Luna.
Knee-deep waters covered Rizal, Borromeo, Narciso, Amat, Navarro and Magallanes Streets that classes had to be suspended Monday in the city.
Evacuations due to floods were also reported in Surigao del Norte.
The Provincial as well as the City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Councils immediately convened to monitor the affected areas and assist flood victims.
“Rescue operations are underway to these areas with the help of Quick Action Response Team (QART), Philippine National Police, Philippine Army and Bureau of Fire Protection,” Matugas said.
Boulders blocked a portion of the road in Kilometer 13, Barangay Trinidad as soil fell from the hilly slopes nearby, causing inconvenience to commuters. The provincial engineering office had cleared the boulders as of 5:30 p.m. Sunday.
Ralph Rowan, head of operations of QART, reported that a person in Barangay Mabini was believed to have drowned after being swept away by strong currents. His body had not been recovered as of today.
Residents said the unidentified man was carrying firewood when strong current swept him as he crossed the river.
QART team leader Armando Go said at least 20 people were trapped in their homes in Sitio Balibayon, Rizal by floodwaters. Rescue operations were still ongoing as of this morning.
The regional Office of Civil Defense (OCD) in Butuan City said it was verifying reports that four people, two of them minors, reportedly went missing after flash floods hit low lying areas along the Agusan River on Monday.
“Disaster and rescue officials, mostly members of local government unit of Las Nieves, Agusan del Norte failed to contact our office to report sana daw that two of their constituents were missing and believed to have drowned by strong current of flood waters overflowing Agusan river, wala daw kuryente sa (there’s no electricity in the) area kaya hirap mag (so it’s hard to) report,” OCD-Caraga regional director Dr. Blanche Gobenciong said.
Two other persons, a father and his son, were reported missing in Esperanza, Agusan del Sur after they allegedly tried to catch logs floating in the Agusan River.
The floods also damaged Caraga’s agricultural crops, although there were still no official estimates as of today.
In Surigao City, Agriculture Officer Isaias Elumba said heavy rains swamped an undetermined number of hectares of rice fields and fish farms. High waters damaged cornfields and vegetable crops in Luna, Rizal, Tobongon, Serna, Mat-I, Poctoy, San Roque and other villages in Arellano District.
Fish cages were destroyed in Barangays Cabongbognan, Day-Asan, San Isidro, Orok and Nabago.
Elumba said fishponds and fish pens were destroyed too. (Roel Catoto/MindaNews)