Race against time in New Bataan

Karlos Manlupig
'It was very fast,' recalls a 'Pablo' survivor in New Bataan. 'The water came down with strong winds and tore down everything in its path.'

TRAGEDY IN COMPOSTELA VALLEY. Families struggle to identify their dead in New Bataan. Photo by Karlos Manlupig

NEW BATAAN, Philippines – “We knew this was coming, but we didn’t expect this much damage,” said a resident, one of the survivors of the devastation of typhoon “Pablo” in this small town in the province of Compostela Valley.

One of the hardest-hit areas during the onslaught of the storm, New Bataan is now racing against time to rescue those who are still alive and injured and retrieve those who have perished. (To know more about the town read “Where the 68 lay dead” here.)

A total of 44 bodies buried in debris and mud were already retrieved while 77 were still missing on Wednesday, December 5.

Dozens of unidentified bodies

Out of the 44 casualties, only 13 were identified, including 8-year old Rena Mae Adlawan. Her mother, Bebeng, and sister, Jade, are still missing.

Adlawan’s cousin, Sadrak Adlawan, said the family was in their home in Barangay Andap when the deluge came. Rena Mae’s father was with Sadrak in San Francisco, Agusan del Sur. Both were trying to return home to be with their families during the typhoon.

UNDER WATER. Entire parts of Compostela Valley are still submerged a day after the typhoon make landfall in nearby Davao Oriental province. Photo by Karlos Manlupig

“When we arrived in New Bataan, we could not find our houses and our relatives,” Sadrak said. She said 9 of their relatives, including Bebeng and Jade, are still missing.

While crying and kneeling in front of Rena Mae’s lifeless body, the remaining family members asked her where the mother, sister and other relatives were.

No one to blame

For Walterio Dapadap Jr, no one must be blamed for the deaths, injuries and damages.

“We should accept what happened in our town,” Dapadap said while nursing several wounds in his arms, legs and body.

STENCH OF DEATH. Volunteers carrying the bodies cover their mouths due to the foul smell of the rotting corpses. Photo by Karlos Manlupig

His father died when their home was swept away by the flashflood in Sitio Kalamkan, Purok 10.

“But this is really dreadful. We know that there is a typhoon coming but we did not expect that it would cause this much damage,” Dapadap said.

Making a living on their crops, including coconuts, corn and ginger, Dapadap and his family are already planning to rebuild their lives, destroyed in just a few hours.

Dapadap narrated that flood started to swamp their area at around 4 am on Tuesday, December 3.

“It was very fast. The water came with strong winds and tore down everything in its path including houses and trees. We were helpless,” Dapadap said.

DESPAIR. This is how many families reacted to seeing their loved ones lying lifeless on the ground. Photo by Karlos Manlupig

Authorities ‘doing their best’

Mayor Lorenzo Balbin said the local government and other government agencies that responded are doing their best to rescue and retrieve the missing residents of New Bataan.

“We are suffering badly right now but we are doing our best,” Balbin said.

At least 6 areas, including Sitio Pagsilaan in Barangay Andap, Cogonon, Panag, Camanlangan and Fatima are still isolated and cannot be reached by the rescue teams, Balbin said.

A total of 600 families were affected and 500 had been evacuated. Power is still out and cellphone signal is patchy. – Rappler.com

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