Thousands flee as south Philippines storm submerges homes

Thousands flee as south Philippines storm submerges homes
Thousands flee as south Philippines storm submerges homes

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - MANILA: More than 53,000 people were forced to flee their homes over the weekend after heavy rains brought by Dujuan, the Philippines’ first storm of the year, flooded several parts of the country, particularly its southern region.

Officials said more than 400 houses were destroyed by the storm, a few of which were swept away by floodwaters.

Alexander Pimentel, governor of the Surigao Del Sur province, said that 41,492 of the affected individuals were from his area, which was “the most affected by the cyclone.”

During a radio interview with DZMM on Monday, Pimentel said “187 homes were totally damaged, and 236 were partially destroyed in the province,” adding that “floodwaters were neck-deep,” particularly in Tandag City.

Other municipalities had also been affected by the strong winds and heavy rains unleashed by Dujuan, he said.

According to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), most of the evacuees are from 216 villages in the CARAGA Administrative Region, Northern Mindanao, and areas in the Central Visayas and Eastern Visayas regions.

The NDRRMC report added that of the affected residents in the four regions, 49,236 people had temporarily sought shelter at evacuation centers, with others turning to their relatives or friends for help.

Pimentel said that most parts of Surigao Del Norte were located along the shoreline, with several of its municipalities facing the Pacific Ocean. Usually only some parts of Surigao Del Sur would experience flooding, but Dujuan is the worst cyclone the province has ever endured.

“Almost the entire province was flooded,” Pimentel said, adding that he is “thankful for the preparedness of the mayors and first responders” of the 17 towns and two cities of Surigao Del Sur.

He added that as early as last Friday “they were already prepared for the possible effects of the cyclone.

“We were all set with the engineering and rescue equipment and ambulances. Preemptive evacuations were also carried out ahead of the arrival of the storm,” he said, adding that so far, there are no reported casualties “despite the massive flooding.”

The governor said: “Floods were worse last Friday and Saturday, some houses were swept away, some were hit by falling wood.”

Some of the evacuation centers were unable to implement minimum health standards — particularly social distancing measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) — due to overcrowding. Some of the centers were submerged in flood water.

Local officials, however, were working round the clock to monitor the situation, with affected residents starting to return to their homes after the weather improved on Monday, Pimentel said.

Meanwhile, the NDRRMC said that the floodwaters had also affected road networks in other regions, with 40 domestic flights cancelled from Feb. 19 to 22.

Classes were also suspended, and government offices closed down in some parts of the Visayas on Saturday and Sunday.

Dujuan weakened into a tropical depression late on Sunday ahead of its landfall in Eastern Visayas’ Northern Samar region. It is expected to bring moderate to heavy rains in parts of southern Luzon.

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