CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – Humanitarian aid and nongovernmental organizations have been swamping military camps in Cagayan de Oro and Butuan with calls to ask if they could help bring relief aid to typhoon-stricken Siargao and Dinagat – islands where Typhoon Odette (Rai) made its first two landfalls on Thursday, December 16.
Army Captain Jonald Romorosa, spokesperson of the 402nd Infantry Brigade in Butuan City, said international aid agencies have been asking if there were available vessels and aircraft that could bring food supplies and potable water to the islands, Surigao del Norte, and Surigao City.
The Caraga islands have been isolated since Typhoon Odette cut off their communication lines and pummeled them on Thursday afternoon. Odette’s first landfall was in Siargao Island at 1:30 pm, while the second was in Dinagat at 3:10 pm.
Similar inquiries have also been received by the Army’s 4th Infantry Division in Cagayan de Oro, according to its public affairs chief, Major Francisco Garello Jr.
“We are still waiting for orders to deploy military trucks to Surigao City. We heard the highway from Butuan to Surigao City is already cleared of landslides and is passable,” Garello said.
He said two Navy ships had arrived in Surigao City and would bring food supplies, water, and medicines to Siargao and Dinagat.
The nongovernmental organization Balay Mindanao said it would send a team to bring food and water filtration systems to Dinagat on Sunday, December 19.
Balay Mindanao head Charlito Manlupig said the filtration system, donated by Disaster Aid Australia, could turn filthy water into safe drinking water.
“These are the systems that people in Dinagat need most,” Manlupig said.
But he said the Balay Mindanao team would need the help of the Navy or Coast Guard to take them to the island.
Dinagat Governor Arlene Bag-ao sent a team to Agusan del Sur to find a mobile phone signal and call for help. When they found a signal, they posted Bag-ao’s message begging for food, water, medicines, and other basic necessities.
Romorosa said the military attempted to bring a satellite phone to Bag-ao and other communications equipment to Dinagat but failed due to bad weather on Friday, December 17.
But he said he and other soldiers were able to fly to Siargao, where they gave Surigao del Norte Governor Francisco Matugas a satellite phone and other equipment.
Romorosa said what they saw in Siargao was “total destruction.”
“The rooftops of houses and buildings were blown off. Sometimes you wonder how people there survived the onslaught,” Romorosa said.
Matugas earlier estimated the damage in Siargao to reach some P20 billion.
Situation in Bukidnon
In Bukidnon province in Northern Mindanao, officials reported one fatality and three injuries on Thursday.
The Bukidnon Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) said one person died in Barangay Dao in San Fernando town after a tree fell on him. His two other companions were injured. Another was also injured in Sumilao town.
Bukidnon PDRRMO head Johan Israel Damasco said 1,719 families were made to evacuate in seven municipalities before the typhoon’s onslaught.
In Valencia City, Bukidnon, 1,158 families living near Pulangui River and low-lying areas evacuated to safer grounds, while 390 more families fled flood-prone villages in Malaybalay City. The families have already returned to their homes.
Allan Comiso, chief of the Malaybalay City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office, said a dike was damaged in Valencia City. – with reports from Grace Cantal-Albasin/Rappler.com
Albasin and Gallardo are Mindanao-based journalists and awardees of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship.