Evacuation starts as heavy rains trigger floods, landslides in Surigao

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews/26 December) — A heavy downpour since this morning caused by a low pressure area off Northeastern Mindanao forced local authorities in this city and in neighboring Dinagat Islands to sound the alarm and urge residents in flood- and landslide-prone areas to evacuate.

Local disaster management councils have already reported the occurrence of flashfloods and landslides due to heavy rains that started at dawn today.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) in Surigao del Norte has declared an alert level one for the entire province as well as in Dinagat Islands, where landslides have occurred.

In Surigao City, some 100 passengers were stranded at the local airport after their flights were canceled. Incoming flights from Cebu and Manila were diverted because of zero visibility, officials said.

The city’s water utility also cut off supply to some 18,500 concessionaires temporarily because of turbidity, which usually happens during heavy downpours.

Acting City Mayor Danilo Menor convened the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (CDRRMC) and urged residents to vacate flood- and landslide-prone areas.

Pagasa attributed the heavy rains to the Low Pressure Area located 30 kilometers West-Northeast of Butuan City, which was spotted early today. It said that from 11 milliliters, rainwater rose to 93.0 milliliter as of 1 p.m. today.

Ankle- to knee-deep water has flooded major streets in Surigao City. The flooded areas included portions of San Nicolas, Navarro, Borromeo, Rizal, Narciso Streets, as well as Barangays Luna, Togbongon and Rizal, according to the CDRRMC.

Officials told the residents of landslide-prone areas in Sitio Pag-asa in Barangay Washington and in Barangay Taft to leave their homes. Some residents have arrived in evacuation centers, the CDRRMC said.

The water level at the Surigao River could rise by 1.9 meter tonight due to high tide, Pagasa said. Water that overflowed from the river washed away newly planted rice and other crops.

Barangays Togbongon, Mat-I, Rizal, Serna, Poctoy, Bonifacio, San Juan and Washington were already flooded.

City Information Office Annette Villaces said the city will give food assistance in evacuation centers tonight.

Councilor Baltazar Abian, who was soaked with water, convinced residents in Sitio Pag-asa and hilly portions to vacate their homes.

“We aim for zero casualty and we ask everyone to leave as early as possible,” he said.

In Dinagat where it has rained since Sunday night, Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (PDRRMC) chair Benglen Ecleo called on residents to go to evacuation centers.

He advised those living in low-lying and landslide-prone areas to take extra precautionary measures.

Around 2 p.m. today, a landslide occurred in Barangay Pantinople in Basilisa town along the national highway.

Personnel from the Provincial Engineering Office were on their way to conduct a clearing operation.

Meanwhile, the detour road near the unfinished steel bridge on Jubgan River in San Francisco town in Surigao del Norte has become impassable due to waist-deep floodwaters leaving several commuters stranded, said Arnel Amalia, Municipal Planning and Development Coordinator of Malimono. (Roel N. Catoto/MindaNews)