37 fishermen remain missing in Sarangani; ‘Butchoy’ now in PH

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/14 June) — At least 37 fishermen remained missing in the storm surge that hit Sarangani Bay as two towns have declared a state of calamity due to the flashfloods, officials said on Thursday.

Based on the consolidated report of the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) of Sarangani, a total of 307 persons have been rescued or washed ashore.

“Most of them have returned home to Maasim,” Ben Solano, PDRRMO chief, said.

Capt. George Ursabia, Commander of Coast Guard District South Eastern Mindanao, reported to PDRRMO Wednesday morning that there were no more rescued fishermen under their care.

“All of them had been released and allowed to go home yesterday (Wednesday] morning. Search efforts are still ongoing for the remaining missing fishermen. Now I’m in Balut Island to oversee ongoing search and rescue here,” Ursabia said.

The total number of missing persons is down to 37, from 88 on Wednesday. These are fishermen from Maasim town who were swept away by a storm surge on June 12, the PDRRMO said.

Maasim Mayor Arturo Lawa said the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council dispatched search and rescue teams on Wednesday to Barangay Big Margus in Glan and will proceed to Balut Island to look for more survivors.

Lawa said they have also placed the town under a state of calamity.

Maasim is one of the two towns in Sarangani province affected by flashfloods spawned by heavy rains last Tuesday.

The other municipality is Glan, which was put under a state of calamity on Wednesday.

Initial assessment pegged the damage to crops and livestock in Glan to be at least P1 million,

Two persons were earlier confirmed dead due to the flashfloods in Glan town.

A total of 274 houses were either totally or partially damaged in Glan as a result of Tuesday’s flashfloods and storm surge due to a shallow low pressure area spotted in Mindanao.

Search and retrieval operations are still ongoing in beaches along Sarangani Bay and up to Balut Island by teams from Maasim MDRRMO, the Coast Guard and the Navy.

According to Glan MDRRMO, the total number of affected families in four barangays hit by flashflood is 765 families with 3,825 dependents.

These are from barangays Poblacion, Pangyan, Cross, Big Margus and Laguimit. Most of the victims’ households were swept away by the strong current and their fixtures and furniture and other belongings destroyed.

Glan Mayor Victor James Yap Sr. led this morning a convoy of medical team, government employees and trucks loaded with rice for distribution to the affected barangays.

This afternoon, the DSWD regional office 12 released a truckload of family food packs, tarpaulin and bedsheets for flashflood victims in Glan.

In an “assessment of the incident,” Ursabia clarified later in the day that there was “no storm” on June 12, “just sudden change of weather and sea conditions due to the shallow LPA 100 kms south of Mindanao at the time that apparently induced the southwest monsoon.”

“Accordingly, it was so sudden that the change of sea condition was so abrupt, from calm to rough, with a wind of approximately 40 kts which lasted for more or less 25 hours (from 120100H June to 130200H June). Most of the fishermen were out at sea as early as in the evening of 11 June when the sea and weather were normal, not expecting such unusual change (of weather and sea conditions) as there were no signs of such in a progressive manner. Since Wednesday morning, weather in the said area has improved after the shallow LPA went up somewhere in Surigao. In short, it was an unusual phenomenon that those out at sea already were caught flat footed.”

Meanwhile, the state-run weather bureau said tropical storm Butchoy (international name: Guchol) entered the Philippine area of responsibility before noon today.

In its latest advisory, the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical Astronomical Services Administration said Butchoy was seen 880 kilometers east of Guiuan, Eastern Samar, packing winds of 85 kilometers per hour near the center and gustiness of up to 100 kph, moving west-northeast at 24 kph.

The estimated rainfall is from 15-25 millimeter per hour. But Pagasa clarified the rains experienced in the country were not caused by the storm but due to monsoon trough and Habagat.

Pagasa advised fishing boats and other small vessels not to venture out into the sea.

Butchoy is expected to exit the country by Monday evening. (Bong Sarmiento with reports from H. Marcos C. Mordeno/MindaNews)