Portions of Agusan-Surigao highway still flooded but trucks, buses pass

A bus navigates through the flooded portion of the national highway in Kitcharao, Agusan del Norte on Thursday. Mindanews Photo by Keith Bacongco

MAINIT,  Surigao del Norte (MindaNews/04 February) — Traveling from Agusan del Norte to Surigao del Norte Thursday was like an obstacle course for trucks and buses that dared to cross over five portions of the highway that remain flooded  when waters from Lake Mainit overflowed Tuesday night.

This, as nine persons in Caraga region, Gingoog City and Maco in Compostela Valley were reported to have died from drowning and landslides as rains brought about by a low pressure area over Eastern Visayas and parts of Mindanao since January 31, triggered the recurrence of  flashfloods, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) in its Situation Report 5 as of 6 a.m. February 4 (see other report).

Only heavy vehicles managed to pass as portions of the highway turned into a virtual sea over a 300-meter stretch between Puroks 8 and 7 in Barangay Tagbuyakan, Santiago town in Agusan del Norte; nearly a kilometer-stretch also in the same barangay, a shorter but deeper stretch in Cabadiangan, Kitcharao town;  in Kanaway also in Kitcharao, and San Roque also in the same town.

In some of the flooded parts, the waters along the highway reached about a meter deep but on both sides of the road, hundreds of houses were either abandoned or partially destroyed and a still undetermined worth of crops were washed away by the floods.

Residents evacuate their dogs into the higher ground at a village in Kitcharao, Agusan del Norte on Thursday. Hundreds of houses have been submerged when Lake Mainit overflowed due to heavy rains. Mindanews Photo by Keith Bacongco

Margie Clamor who had to rush to Butuan City from Surigao City took a van from Surigao City until San Roque in Kitcharao, a pumpboat to Cabadiangan, a baroto (small banca), a motorcycle and finally another baroto until she reached Santiago.

A resident of Jabonga town in Agusan del Norte complained that pumpboat operators were charging P1,500 from Santiago. The bus fare from Jabonga to Santiago is only around P37.

Passengers in jampacked buses heaved a collective sigh of relief upon arrival in Santiago from Surigao City or those from Butuan City to Surigao, upon hurdling the last obstacle in San Roque Kitcharao town.

A signage of the Prospero Salas Elementary School along the highway was the only proof of a school somewhere in the flooded area.

Relief goods from the regional office of the Department of Social Welfare and Development bound for Surigao del Norte were transported on a six-by-six military truck and a smaller truck of the DSWD towed by an Army truck that was part of a convoy of the 30th Infantry Battalion’s Charlie Company under 2Lt. Ryan Comoso.

A military convoy carrying relief goods navigates through the flooded national highway on Thursday at Barangay San Roque in Kitcharao, Agusan del Norte. Elements of the Charlie Company of the 30th Infantry Battalion transported relief goods from Butuan City to Mainit town, in Surigao del Norte. Mindanews Photo by Ruby Thursday More

The convoy from Butuan City to this town consisted of a KM truck, an armored personnel carrier and two six-by-six trucks, one of them loaded with 87 sacks of relief goods from the DSWD regional office.

In Mainit, a lakeside town in Surigao del Norte, the number of families displaced by floods reached 1,214 from 14 affected barangays out of the town’s 21, said Rose Salino, Mainit Social Welfare and Development Officer .

At least 400 families in the poblacion or town center alone, were displaced by floods, a number of them staying at the Pastoral Center, elementary school and the municipal gymnasium that also got flooded Tuesday night. Displaced residents who sought temporary shelter there said the gym usually gets flooded during heavy rains.

A number of the evacuees at the gym, however, had been there since the third week of January. Geraldine Perez, mother of three, said 58 families from their village in Purok Rosal in Barangay Quezon  had been there since January 18.

“Wala na may lain” (there’s  no other place), she said when asked why they evacuated to a gymnasium that gets flooded during heavy rains. The floodwaters a day earlier was ankle-length, said Perez.

At the Pastoral Center and elsewhere along the Agusan-Surigao highway,  it was laundry day Thursday, the first time the sun shone in a week, although by afternoon, it rained again in some parts.

A little girl joined adults in drying their clothes on the grass within the Pastoral Center compound, gently placing her stuffed tiger and stuffed bear to dry.

Employees at the Senior Citizens’ building within the municipal hall compound talked about the “daghang hayas” (so many snakes) residents saw.

In Barangay Masayaw, the floodwaters  reached above the basketball goal.

Mainit Mayor Ramon Mondano said they would have relocated the residents along the lakeshore if they had sufficient funds.

He said the skies cleared only on Wednesday but the water level, he said, went down only by about 20 inches.

He said if it doesn’t rain anymore the water level of the lake will be back to its normal in two to three weeks.

Residents paddle through the submerged village in Kitcharao, Agusan del Norte on Thursday. Hundreds of houses are now submerged when Lake Mainit overflowed due to heavy rains since last week. Mindanews Photo by Ruby Thursday More

He said this year’s floods not only destroyed houses and agricultural crops but also some roads going to upland barangays. Landslides in Barangay Binga and Roxas, he said, had rendered the road impassable but the town’s engineering department had been deployed to clear the area.

Siony Tado, the town’s maintenance engineer, and rural health midwife Luzminda Dianon  guided the MindaNews team through the flooded areas within the poblacion of Mainit, both of them saying this is the first time in 30 years that the  waters reached the market site.

“The last time this happened was in 1981,” said Tado.

“Global warming na talaga ito” (This is now the result of global warming), said Dianon.

The two pointed to the lakeshore Kasili Resort operated by the municipal government, half of the two-floor hotel under water.

Along the highway of Kitcharao in Agusan del Norte, floodwaters reportedly reached the second floor of the two-floor Almont Lake Resort Wednesday although by Thursday afternoon, the waters had receded a bit. But water hyacinths trapped within the hotel compound by the fence made of iron grill along the highway, seemed like a carpet leading straight to the second floor. (Carolyn O. Arguillas, Roel Catoto, Keith Bacongco and Ruby Thursday More/MindaNews)