Thousands flee as southern Philippine storm overwhelms homes


MANILA: More than 53,000 people were forced to flee their homes over the weekend after heavy rains caused by Dujuan, the Philippines’ first storm of the year, flooded parts of the country, especially its region South.

Authorities said more than 400 homes were destroyed by the storm, a few of which were washed away by flood waters.

Alexander Pimentel, governor of Surigao Del Sur province, said 41,492 of those affected came from his region, which was “most affected by the cyclone”.

In a radio interview with DZMM on Monday, Pimentel said that “187 houses were totally damaged and 236 were partially destroyed in the province”, adding that “the flood waters were up to their necks”, in particular in Tandag City.

Other municipalities were also affected by the high winds and heavy rains triggered by Dujuan, he said.

According to the National Council for Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (NDRRMC), most of the evacuees come from 216 villages in the administrative region of CARAGA, northern Mindanao and areas of the Central and Eastern Visayas regions.

The NDRRMC report added that among the affected residents in the four regions, 49,236 people had temporarily sought refuge in evacuation centers, while others turned to their relatives or friends for help.

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

“Almost the whole province has been inundated,” Pimentel said, adding that he was “grateful for the preparedness of the mayors and first responders” of the 17 towns and two towns 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 ready with the engineering and rescue equipment and the ambulances. Preventive evacuations were also carried out before the arrival of the storm, ”he said, adding that so far no casualties have been reported“ despite the massive flooding ”.

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

Some of the evacuation centers have been unable to implement minimum health standards – particularly social distancing measures to limit the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) – due to overcrowding. Some of the centers were submerged by flood waters.

Local authorities, however, were working around the clock to monitor the situation, with affected residents starting to return home after the weather improved on Monday, Pimentel said.

Meanwhile, the NDRRMC said the floodwaters also affected road networks in other areas, with 40 domestic flights canceled from February 19-22.

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

Dujuan weakened in a tropical depression on Sunday evening before arriving in the Samar region of the northern Eastern Visayas. It is expected to bring moderate to heavy rains in parts of southern Luzon.

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