Landslides, floods feared as LPA nears; forced evacuations done in New Bataan

DAVAO CITY  (MindaNews/02 January) –  The regions of Caraga and Davao in Mindanao and Eastern Visayas have been warned against flashfloods and landslides as another low pressure area (LPA)  has been spotted near Mindanao.

In New Bataan, the town in Compostela Valley province hit hardest by super typhoon Pablo on December 4,  the municipal government has ordered forced evacuation of five puroks (villages) starting at 5 p.m. Wednesday  as the rivers continued to swell due to  continuous heavy rains since New Year’s night,  said Marlon Esperanza, municipal information officer.

Of  at least 400 persons  killed in New Bataan,  most were killed by flashfloods and debris flow spawned by Pablo.

A total of 120 families from three puroks (districts) had been evacuated as of 8:47 p.m. but 200 more families in two other puroks had yet to be evacuated as of 10:30 p.m.

In Davao Oriental, rains and strong winds prevented a team of 25  doctors, nurses and support staff from Operation Blessing International from reaching Baganga via Caraga town as the river under the Gov. Teodoro Palma Gil Bridge or Manurigao Bridge swelled, making it unsafe for pumpboats to cross.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) in its 5 p.m. advisory said the LPA, estimated at 440 kilometers east of Mindanao as of 2 pm January 2,  is “embedded along the intertropical convergence zone,” affecting Visayas and Mindanao.

PAGASA said Eastern Visayas and the regions of Caraga and Davao will have cloudy skies with moderate to heavy rainshowers and thunderstorms “which may trigger flashfloods and landslides.”

Caraga region comprises the provinces of Surigao del Sur and Surigao del Norte, Dinagat Islands, Agusan del Sur and Agusan del Norte and the cities of  Bislig, Tandag, Surigao, Bayugan, Butuan and Cabadbaran while the Davao region comprises the provinces of Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, Davao Oriental, and Compostela Valley and the cities of Tagum, Panabo, Samal, Digos, Davao and Mati.

In New Bataan as of 8:47 pm. Wednesday,  Esperanza told MindaNews that 120 families living near the river banks had been evacuated – 38 families from Puok 9 now in the elementary school in the poblacion; 12 families from Purok 6  in the municipal gym and 70 families from Purok 11 now in a privately-owned building also in the poblacion.

Fr. Edgar Tuling, New Bataan parish priest,  told MindaNews in a text message at 9:09 that residents from Purok 9 had also sought refuge in the church.

Esperanza said the decision to undertake forced evacuation was made during an emergency meeting of the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (MDRRMC).

But he explained they had to stop after the evacuation of  the 120 families from three puroks because “it’s late and risky for both rescuers and evacuees because they have to cross the rivers through ropes.” He was referring to the Mayo and  Maa rivers .

Esperanza, who assumed the post of Commander at the  Incident Command Post, added that  200 more families from Purok 10 in the poblacion and Purok 7 in Taytayan — areas traversed by the Maa river — have been ordered to evacuate but due to the risks entailed for both rescuers and the persons to be rescued, evacuations will be done in the morning.

In Davao Oriental, Governor Corazon Malanyaon told MindaNews residents near the river banks and areas vulnerable to landslides had been advised to leave.

In Compostela Valley province, Governor Arturo Uy said preemptive evacuations have been done, too.

In Veruela town, Agusan del Sur, Mayor Salimar Mondejar told MindaNews their  trucks are ready for the evacuations. He said residents were informed through the recoridas to prepare.

As of 8:18 p.m., Mondejar said “nagbaha-aha na pod ang mga tributary creeks ug ang Agusan River” (the tributaries, creeks and Agusan River are swelling).

He said he was awaiting text message from the barangay chairs, reiterating that the trucks are ready in case of evacuations.

Before Typhoon Pablo hit the town, 14 of its 20 barangays were already flood-prone.

In Surigao City, residents said  it’s more rainy and windy now than on Christmas Day when a low pressure area threatened the area, eventually becoming Typhoon Quinta.  The typhoon made landfall in Eastern Visayas  instead of the expected landfall in Dinagat Islands province.

Also at 5 p.m., PAGASA warned that  “strong to gale force wind is expected to affect the seaboards of Northern Luzon and the eastern seaboard of Central and Southern Luzon, and the seaboards of Eastern Visayas and Eastern Mindanao” – particularly the eastern coasts of Leyte and Samar in the Visayas and  Surigao and Davao provinces in Mindanao.

“Fishing boats and other small seacrafts are advised not to venture out into the sea while larger sea vessels are alerted against big waves,”  PAGASA said. (Carolyn O. Arguillas with a report from  Vanessa Almeda/ MindaNews