SULTAN SA BARONGIS, Maguindanao (MindaNews / 29 June) – The municipal government here today has placed the entire town under a state of calamity due to rising flood water since Wednesday.
Mayor Ramdatu Angas said the water level receded Friday morning but slowly rose again as rains continue to hit the neighboring provinces of South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat.
Angas said residents displaced by the floods last Friday and Saturday had started to return home only to evacuate anew as water rose again.
“Water level in some areas reached as high a neck level, sending more villagers to flee to higher ground,” the mayor said.
The town has been submerged in water for almost a week now as Kapingkong River and Ala River have overflowed and redirected the volume of water in several communities in this municipality.
In some parts during the worst rains, only roofs of buildings could be seen as dozens of houses and infrastructure were damaged and wiped out.
To date, at least 25,000 persons or close to 5,000 families, have been affected and displaced.
Five barangays were severely hit, including the town poblacion of Barurao.
Some residents here opted to sleep on the streets, fearing they might be trapped by the abrupt rise of flood water while sleeping at home as continuous rains fell until today.
Mayor Angas blamed a flood control project that failed to do its work in controlling flood water from the Ala River.
He said a banana plantation constructed a dike to prevent the floods from reaching the banana plantation but what happened was it threatened Sultan sa Barongis.
Angas said the tailend of the dike triggered more flood water toward Sultan sa Barongis.
“The water used to pass through Barangay Tinumigues, now it goes directly to more villages,” he lamented.
Arah Salik, a resident, said flood water continues to rise. “We have no more place to stay in our village, thus we’d rather stay here by the roadside,” he added.
His house was submerged in water up to the window.
Some evacuees are staying at the town gymnasium, others at a mosque nearby. Some sought refuge in makeshift houses along the road leading to the town center.
Aside from this municipality, seven other towns in Maguindanao were affected – Datu Paglas, Paglat, Buluan, Mangudadatu, Pandag, Gen. SK Pendatun and Rajah Buayan.
“We can endure this one,” said Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Toto Mangudadatu, referring to the third calamity to hit the province this year.
Early this year, mass evacuation took place government troopers launched military operations following the Mamasapano incident wherein 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos, 17 Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels and five civilians were killed.
Then a five-month dry spell damaged crops in the vast farmlands of Maguindanao.
About a dozen municipalities were placed under a state of calamity due to drought as well as the massive displacement of civilians.
“Kaya pa naman (We can still handle this),” Mangudadatu said of the floods that hit eight of the 36 municipalities of Maguindanao, adding that the province has enough calamity funds to use until the end of this year.
Mangudadatu lauded the quick response by government forces like the elements of the Army’s 40th Infantry Battalion and local police who served as rescue teams amid calamities in Maguindanao.
“Nobody has died due to the floods,” Mangudadatu said, adding that he already alerted the towns surrounding the Liguasan marsh to be on guard for possible sudden rise of river water.
“I have appealed to the local executives to be watchful of impending floods so they can convince the people to quickly move to safer grounds,” he said.
Residents said the flood in Sultan sa Barongis, which reached neck level, is one of the worst flooding to hit the town since 1982.