“Sendong” survivors greet New Year in evacuation centers

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/31 December) – “Sendong” survivors will greet the New Year inside the already cramped evacuation centers as public and private volunteers scramble to prepare their temporary relocation sites.

Even if volunteers double their efforts, it will still be unlikely for Sendong survivors–cramped inside 22 evacuation centers in this city–to move into the temporary relocation sites identified by the city government when classes resume on January 3, next year, the executive committee chair of the multi-sectoral relief response operations center said in a press conference, late afternoon Friday.

“Maybe by the end of January, some of the IDPs (internally displaced persons) will be able to move into the box shelters put up in Calaanan, barangay Canitoan,” Abp. Antonio Ledesma, SJ said.

Ledesma said the move into temporary shelters will all depend on the “availability of tents and lands.”

In the executive committee meeting immediately before the press conference, a representative from the Department of Education (DepEd 10) said it will be alright if the IDPs stay in the schools that serve as evacuation centers.

“Let the IDPs stay within the evacuation center in the schools but you should realize that the longer they stay the longer our students will be deprived of their classes,” the DepEd representative said.

She suggested to the committee to consider relocating the IDPs to other evacuation centers that are not schools (e.g. covered courts and barangay multipurpose halls), when the regular classes resume while waiting for the temporary relocation sites to be ready.

In DSWD 10’s website (http://www.fo10.dswd.gov.ph/index.php?option=com_wrapper&view=wrapper&Itemid =149), as of 8 am of December 30, 41 of this city’s 80 barangays have been affected by Sendong and 37,669 families or 226,919 individuals affected.

According to the same monitoring matrix, 98,001 persons are cramped inside 22 evacuation centers all around the city. The most densely populated evacuation centers are schools: City Central School at Velez street, is sheltering 1,582 families or 9,492 persons; Carmen Barangay Hall comes in as the second most densely populated evacuation center with 1,374 families or 5,496 persons; third is the West City Central School at barangay Carmen with 1,200 families or 4,800 individuals.

Ledesma said there are two areas identified to serve as the IDPs’ temporary relocation sites: the six to nine hectare property of the city government in sitio Calaanan, barangay Canitoan and a five-hectare property in barangay Lumbia which was recently donated by the Board of Trustees of the Jesuit-run Xavier University.

He also said that Mayor Vicente Emano personally donated 816 tents and that concerted efforts have started in putting them up at Calaan, barangay Canitoan, this city.

Tent city

In his Facebook account, Elmer Francisco, vice president at Rotary Club of West Cagayan de Oro, posted that as of December 30, they were able to put up “around 100 tents out of the total 408  at Shelter Box Village, Calaanan, barangay Canitoan, this city.

“Hopefully we could finish setting-up the tents before (the New Year). And hopefully DSWD (and) DOH (Department of Health) could honor their pledge and speed up their help with regards to the toilets. It’s hard to relocate the evacuees here without toilets. Otherwise, we would once again resort to the Portalets,” Francisco wrote on a message thread.

Francisco said that “Rotary International and Shelter Box will send more tents depending on the need.” He said the tents were well-researched and well-crafted. “(It is) not hot (inside the tents) because it’s double walled with insulator and strategic ventilation all around and overhead the tent. It’s fire resistant, water-proof and could withstand up to 120 kph of wind if there would be a typhoon.”

He said volunteers are very much welcome and needed at the Shelter Box Village since many “people/volunteers underwent training for setting-up of the tents but only very few came.”

“Yes, volunteers are needed on site at Calaanan. As of now, we have already put up around 100 out of 480 tents with the help of the 26 Marines who started installing yesterday (December 29) 2 pm and 50 policemen/women sent by (Senior Superintendent Gerardo) Rosales (city director of the Cagayan de Oro City Police Office) this morning. Thanks to Col. Rosales who was also there this morning to personally supervise the police,” Francisco said.

Organized relief operations

President Benigno Simeon Aquino, who visited Cagayan and Iligan cities there days after the December 17 flashfloods struck the city and Iligan, ordered the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to spearhead the relief operations after the city government’s disaster response was virtually non-existent.

Social Action Center Executive Director Fr Nathan Lerio said when the City Social Welfare Division handled the evacuation centers, it was “chaotic.”

That is why the DSWD was appointed to spearhead the management of the evacuation sites,” said Lerio.

The DSWD-Multi-Sectoral Relief Response Operation Center, which operates at Xavier University’s Gymnasium, is the product of the partnership between DSWD and various private and public organizations. Its primary function is to consolidate and disseminate data information for government agencies, aid organizations, private donors and volunteers.

“SENDong+AID encourages all other parties wanting to serve and offer help to coordinate closely with the center so that relief efforts can be organized and consolidated for a more efficient and effective delivery of goods and services to affected areas and evacuation centers” its website reads. (Cong Corrales/MindaNews)