LANAO DEL NORTE, Philippines – Desperate to flee Marawi City in Lanao del Sur, students at the main campus of the Mindanao State University (MSU) were forced to walk up to 32 kilometers to Iligan City, Lanao del Norte, on Wednesday, May 24.
Eduardito Maruhom, an official at MSU’s satellite campus in Iligan City, said they received reports that 9 of their students opted to walk when they couldn’t find a ride to evacuate from the clashes there.
“The children walked from Marawi to Iligan,” Maruhom told Rappler. “There are 9 of them. The poor students are tired and hungry.”
Thousands of residents have fled Marawi to escape the clashes between the Maute terrorist group and government forces. President Rodrigo Duterte has placed the entire Mindanao under martial law, and said he would expand the coverage if the terrorists get a foothold on other island groups.
The students have not reached Iligan City when Rappler spoke to Maruhom Wednesday afternoon. Maruhom said the distance is about 32 kilometers.
The students have been trying to get a ride along the way, but Maruhom said most vehicles owners in Marawi City are also evacuating their own families.
Vehicles owners are not so lucky themselves. Traffic is massive as residents flee in droves. What usually takes an hour’s drive on regular days has taken up to 7 hours for many of them.
All vehicles entering Iligan City are meticulously inspected. Passengers are ordered to get off their buses so their bags are checked one by one. There’s a separate line for private vehicles, too.
@rapplerdotcom Here at a checkpoint, passengers asked to get off buses so bags can be checked one by one. Separate line for private vehicles @rapplerdotcom pic.twitter.com/ym8o1A262B— Carmela Fonbuena (@carmelafonbuena) May 24, 2017
But there are no complaints so far. “It’s safer if there’s a checkpoint. But it’s also a hassle. They asked us all to get off the bus for additional safety purposes,” Melissa Saavedra told Rappler.
The MSU campus in Iligan City has prepared to accommodate students who evacuated MSU-Marawi. But Maruhom said the accommodation cannot include their parents.
“We’ve prepared already our campus emergency response team. It’s ready to receive the students. The food are ready,” Maruhom said.
Students who were able to get a ride on dump trucks provided by several groups are expected to arrive at the Iligan campus late Wednesday night.
“In our little way, we extend our helping hand. We will receive the students of MSU main campus. We will house them here,” Maruhom said.
MSU-Marawi is the biggest campus and has about 20,000 students. Maruhom said the Iligan campus can accommodate up to 2,000 students who cannot find accommations elsewhere. – Rappler.com
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