Butuan City goes Code Red; riverside residents ordered to vacate

BUTUAN CITY (MindaNews/10 January) – Code Red.

Evacuations were enforced in at least seven riverside barangays here as authorities raised the alert level to 3 or Code Red at 8 p.m. Thursday when the water level of the Agusan River reached three meters above the normal due to continuous rains since Wednesday.

Mitch Sagod, a member of the city government’s Butuan Search and Rescue Team (BUSaRT) reported the water level of Agusan River had reached 3.1 meters as of  9 p.m.  The normal water level is 1.7 meters.

The team as of 9:30 p.m. was evacuating residents of Barangay Buhangin, Sagod told MindaNews.

Sagod said they expect the water level to rise by 1.2 meters more  by 11 p.m. because of the high tide.

The last time the city issued a Code Red was in January 2010. But the worst flood was in February 1962 when Butuan’s streets were under 15 feet of water and in some parts, as high as 20 feet after 57 days of rain.

The Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) in its 5 p.m. advisory on Thursday said the low pressure area (LPA) was estimated at 370 kilometers southeast of General Santos City as of 4 p.m.  In its 11 a.m. advisory, it said the LPA earlier seen approaching east Mindanao had dissipated.

Evacuation of residents in riverside barangays such as  Lemon, Pigdaulan, Mahay, Buhangin, Banza, Golden Ribbon, and P-4 Obrero was ordered as early as 10 a.m.

Classes in both public and private elementary and high schools were immediately suspended by the local government as soon as Alert Level 2 or Code Yellow was issued.

Code Yellow was issued at 10 a.m. when the water level rose to 2.5 meters.

All flights to and from Butuan City were immediately suspended, as well as flights to Surigao City.

The city government immediately set up an emergency coordinating center inside City Hall  while Father Saturnino Urios University set up its emergency relief center inside its gymnasium which will also be used to help coordinate with the rescue and relief operations.

Nokie Calunsag, information officer for Green Mindanao and a resident of  Barangay Baan riverside, said as early as 3 a.m. Thursday,  the barangay streets were starting to flood.

“The tributary of the river in Barangay Mahay started to overflow which also added to the flooding in Barangay Baan. This morning the water level was already above the knee and my mother and wife immediately evacuated to the center. The mode of transportation now  is by canoe,” said Calunsag. (Erwin Mascarinas/MindaNews)