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BUTUAN, Philippines – Authorities in Butuan City ordered a forced evacuation on Saturday evening, February 3, as the Agusan River reached Water Level Flood Alert 3 or Red Warning, triggered by the rising floodwaters from upstream along Davao de Oro and Agusan del Sur.
The City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (CDRRMO) initially declared a forced evacuation on Saturday, 9 pm, when the rising Agusan River water level was measured at 2.6 meters.
According to the Butuan City Public Information Office, 13 barangays were under forced evacuation, namely Baobaoan, Mandamo, San Vicente, Baan Riverside, Golden Ribbon, Pangabugan, Mahogany, Maon, Buhangin, Agusan Pequeño, Aupagan, Obrero, and Bading.
The information office said the floodwaters affected approximately 947 families, totaling around 4,047 individuals as of Sunday. The displaced residents are now sheltered at city’s the 19 evacuation centers.
Authorities maintained Flood Alert Level 3, for continued forced evacuation until 11 pm, Sunday, as water level increased to 2.9 meters.
“As the water level continuously rises due to the volume of water from the southern part of Mindanao and Butuan City as the catch basin, the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Department strongly imposed forced evacuation on all the barangays situated along the river banks and continuously monitors the status of their area of responsibility,” CDRRMO said in its post.
According to the latest advisory from the Agusan River Basin Flood Forecasting & Warning Center of Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), rising water levels were still observed at midstream Agusan River along Talacogon, San Luis, Esperanza in Agusan del Sur, and downstream Agusan River along Las Nieves, Agusan del Norte, and Butuan City.
“Flooding is occurring at the midstream and downstream areas of the basin, particularly along riverside areas, and will also likely persist for a few days due to the volume of water discharge from the upstream,” the advisory said.
Noemi Acero, 24, a resident of Baan Riverside, said that the last time they experienced prolonged flooding was in 2014 when Tropical Depression Agaton flooded their area for several days.
“The water began rising last Friday, but it didn’t concern us initially as we thought it would subside by the next day, especially since it wasn’t raining. We’re used to flooding every January-February, but this time it’s different – the water has been rising for four days straight now,” Acero said.
Liza Mazo, Office of Civil Defense Caraga Regional Director, called on the residents to evacuate when advised to do so and not be complacent.
“It is really important to heed the advisories from the local government. If they say evacuate, evacuate immediately while everyone can still do so. We have our local government that responds to help and assist in the evacuation process,” Mazo said. – Rappler.com
Ivy Marie Mangadlao is a community journalist writing for Mindanews and an Aries Rufo Journalism fellow for 2023-2024.