Army contingents from CDO, Davao reach Baybay City in Leyte

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY(MindaNews/18 November)- The two Army contingents that left Cagayan de Oro and Davao cities last weekend have reached typhoon-devastated Baybay City in Leyte on Sunday.

Col. Julian Pacatan Jr., commander of Task Force Diamond, said that although they found Baybay City devastated by super typhoon Yolanda, the “situation among the residents has stabilized” after relief goods have reached them earlier Saturday.

Pacatan described the devastation they saw as the Army contingents wind its way to Baybay City.

“We saw abandoned houses, felled coconut trees and downed electric poles along the highway but the situation has stabilized. The residents are no longer hungry,” he said.

Pacatan noted that plenty of food aid reached the city from Tacloban last Saturday.

He also said that communication in the city “has been restored,” with Globe Telecom running its system by generator, which forces shutdown several times a day.

Task Force Diamond left Cagayan de Oro Friday while Task Force Aguila left Davao City Saturday. Both contingents consisting of soldiers, doctors and engineers are veteran responders of typhoons Sendong and Pablo in Mindanao.

Pacatan said their contingent has already cleaned a school building and is presently repairing a hospital damaged by typhoon Yolanda.

He said their heavy equipment are clearing the roads of downed electric poles, trees and other debris.

“I never saw so much destruction but I was told that Tacloban was much worse than Baybay,” Pacatan told MindaNews by phone.

Pacatan said the four ferryboats that carried their convoy and other relief trucks used the two ports of Liloan and San Ricardo in Leyte from Lipata, Surigao del Norte.

As of Sunday, the Lipata port in Surigao City experienced congestion as hundreds of trucks carrying relief goods used it as jump-off point to the typhoon devastated areas in the Visayas.

Meanwhile, Araceli Solamillo, Department of Social Welfare and Development director for Region 10, said they received instruction from their national office to stop repacking food relief items after food aid from the United Nations and other countries started arriving in typhoon-affected areas.

The repacking centers at the Mt. Carmel Church in Barangay Carmen and DSWD regional office along Masterson Avenue this city grounded to a halt Sunday night.

“There is so much food packs in Leyte already. We are starting to reassess the other needs of the victims,” Solamillo said.

Solamillo said they are thinking of buying personal hygiene kits for women and kitchen utensils, which were popular items during typhoon Sendong, she said.

She said the DSWD regional office has spent P17 million, sent by the national government, to buy relief goods such as sardines, noodles and rice.

At one point last Friday, the DSWD has found it difficult to find suppliers of relief goods.

Solamillo said the volunteers who responded to the call of the DSWD managed to pack some 78,000 food packs since Tuesday.

“The volunteers did a wonderful job. Our first shipment was among the first to arrive in Tacloban and feed its hungry residents,” Solamillo said.

Volunteers from all walks of life, including typhoon Sendong victims, trooped to the DSWD relief centers and pack the food bags by hand.

Solamillo said they still have 15,000 relief bags awaiting shipment this week. (Froilan Gallardo/MindaNews)