Surigaonons start evacuating

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews / 7 Nov) – Residents here have already heeded the call to safety as families started evacuating to safer areas starting Wednesday night as super typhoon Yolanda approaches.

Classes in all levels across the whole province of Surigao del Norte and also in Dinagat Islands have been suspended starting today.

The Surigao City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council said evacuation centers in all barangays are now ready to house those seeking refuge.

Leonardo Go, of the Surigao City Quick Action Response Team, said they are giving priority to all coastal barangays in the city such as San Juan, Lipata, Sabang and Punta Bilar.

Annette Villaces, media liaison officer of Surigao City, said people have been voluntarily leaving their homes as they head towards evacuation centers. “We are still monitoring the 21 island barangays and we are also checking the designated evacuation centers in the mainland barangays,” she added.

As of 10:30 a.m. today, Villaces said 4 families have sought refuge at the Surigao City High School Gymnasium in Barangay San Juan, 25 families at the gymnasium of Barangay Punta Bilar, 4 at the City Auditorium, 7 at the Washington Gym, 5 at Surigao Del Norte National High School in Barangay Washington, 19 families at the St. Paul Gym in Barangay Luna; 4 families at the gym in Barangay Taft, 15 families at the Ipil multipurpose hall and another 4 families at the Ipil Church.

Manuel Kong, communication officer of City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council, said the National Food Authority and the Department of Social Welfare and Development are now repacking rice and canned goods.

No boats

Starting last night, there were no more boats along the boulevard, where big motorized bancas bound for Dinagat Island and the city’s island barangays dock.

Boats have been barred to leave Surigao City’s ports as well as the other ports in Surigao del Norte.

Flights for Cebu and Manila of the two airline companies operating here had likewise been cancelled.

Several hotels and inns in the City have been fully booked since last night.

Marissa Tan, vice president for operations of Philippine Gateway Hotel, said all their rooms have been taken.

She said that while several activities at the hotel were cancelled because of Yolanda, local residents, including hotel staff, afraid of the possible flood have booked rooms.

An employee of Tavern Hotel told MindaNews last night that people began to “panic” because of the super typhoon. He said they might be fully booked today.

Jan Estanio, a radio anchor of DXRS-RMN Surigao, said he and his two kids are now in one of the inns in the city.

Abtik ta, bawit na ta daan” (Let’s be cautions, let’s do preemptive evacuation now), he said

In Sitio Payawan in Barangay Luna, the office building of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), which used to be the refuge center for residents here during past super typhoons (like Nitang in August 1984 and Ruping in November 1990) is now open for evacuees, according to Noli Arreza, OIC regional director of MGB-Caraga.

“This three-story building saved dozens and dozens of lives during the wrath of super typhoons that pummeled the city,” said Puloy Casio, who is now camped at the MGB office along with his family.

Casio and his neighbors had sought refuge at the building in the past.

Hycee Sta. Iglesia, also of Barangay Luna, said she already kept all her important documents into inside a plastic folder and covered by another plastic bag before placing them inside a cabinet. All her appliances have been wrapped with plastic, too, worried that their roof will be destroyed.

She plans to stay at the MGB building later today, too.

Surigao City Vice Mayor Danilo C. Menor said forced evacuation will take place this afternoon in areas identified as prone to flashfloods, landslides and storm surges.

He said all equipment of the engineering department are on standby, ready to respond.

Menor urged the people living in high risk areas to leave their homes and move to the nearest evacuation centers as soon as possible.

Lt. Col. Arsenio Sadural, the new commanding officer of 30th Infantry Battalion, said his troops and vehicles are ready to respond in areas that need their help.