DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/27 March) – The number of evacuees who have arrived from Sabah since March 6 has reached 4,439 as of 11 a.m. on March 27, more than twice the March 17 total of 1,677, records from the Regional Human Rights Commission (RHRC) of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) showed.
“It (evacuation) hasn’t stopped,” RHRC chair Laisa Alamia told MindaNews.
Thousands had been fleeing Sabah for fear of getting caught in the crossfire in the operations Malaysian authorities launched against members of the “Royal Security Forces of the Sultanate of Sulu and Northern Borneo” to flush them out of Lahad Datu in Sabah.
The figure 4,439 does not include the 288 persons persons on board a commercial ferry who arrived in Zamboanga City on March 2 following their deportation from Sabah and whose deportation had nothing to do with the standoff in Lahad Datu.
The RHRC’s “Sabah Evacuee Map”shows a total of 4,727 evacuees, 288 classified under “organized” or those officially deported by Sabah, and the remaining 4,439 classified under “self” or voluntary evacuation.
Between March 23 and 26 alone, a total of 287 persons arrived from Sandakan and Semporna, according to the RHRC’s evacuee map.
The 4,439 evacuees evacuees arrived on 50 boats from Sabah, Tawau, Sandakan, Semporna, Lahad Datu.
Sulu posted the highest number of arrivals at 3,211 on board 18 boats, followed by Tawi-tawi’s 974 on board 31 boats and Basilan at 254 on board one boat.
The biggest number of passengers — 523 — were on board M/L Fatima Editha III (earlier reported at 512).
According to Ibrahim, a passenger interviewed by MindaNews when the boat docked at a private port in Mauboh, Patikul, Sulu on March 15, the boat carried 512 passengers when it left Sandakan at 3 p.m. on March 9, nearly thrice its passenger capacity of 180, he said.
The boat arrived in Taganak evening of March 9 but was not allowed to proceed to Bongao in Tawi-tawi because it was overloaded. Some passengers had to be transferred to a naval boat.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) website as of 6 a.m. March28 said a total of 944 families or 4,721 persons comprising 2,861 adults and 1,860 children arrived from Sabah.
There is no accompanying breakdown of the data posted on the NDRRMC website.
But it said the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) set up a mobile Humanitarian Desk/Team in Tawi-tawi “to complement the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs)-led Rapid Response Teams to address the needs” of the evacuees.
It said food and-food items amounting to P10.39 million had been provided to the evacuees and an additional P13.403 million for the ongoing humanitarian operations. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)