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MARAWI, Philippines – Students started fleeing Marawi City due to security concerns in the aftermath of the bombing that killed at least four people and hurt more than 40 other mostly Catholic mass-goers at the Dimaporo gym of the state-run Mindanao State University (MSU) on Sunday, December 3.
Local governments from other parts of Mindanao sent buses to bring students home.
Shania Baldecasa, 23, a third-year Natural Science student at MSU, said she found no comfort in assurances that the university campus and the city are secure.
Baldecasa said she was going to hear Mass and was outside the Dimaporo Gym when the bomb went off on Sunday morning.
The powerful explosion was followed by a pandemonium as students and teachers dashed out of the gym.
“A friend dragged me back to our dormitory,” Baldecasa said.
Paul Reancho, a third-year International Relations student, said students started receiving calls from their parents who instructed them to leave the MSU campus and go home.
“I agreed because I am scared, too,” said Reancho as he lugged his bag on a vehicle that would take him and the others to nearby Iligan City.
In neighboring Iligan, many MSU students flocked to the Anahaw Amphitheater on Sunday to wait for their ride back home.
Vehicles from the cities of Cagayan de Oro and Pagadian and Wao town in Lanao del Sur were dispatched on Sunday afternoon to bring students home.
Cagayan de Oro Disaster Risk Reduction Management Officer Nick Jabagat said his group came with two buses to fetch at least 150 MSU students who wanted to return to their families in Cagayan de Oro.
Lanao del Sur Governor Mamintal Adiong said the provincial government also provided buses and other vehicles for MSU students who wanted to go home.
“After this incident, we cannot blame the parents for wanting their children to go home,” Adiong said.
The MSU assured that the internal security of the university was in place and that the campus was secure even as it urged students to “be calm but cautious.”
Dr. Rashid Paca, MSU executive vice president, reminded MSU students that the two-week final examinations would start this month, and the university would not offer remedial courses for those who go home.
“What they are doing is unnecessary. The police and soldiers will be here. There is ample security already,” Paca said.
In a statement on Sunday, the MSU asked its students to stay.
“We urge the students to remain in their dormitories, boarding houses, and homes inside the campus until further notice,” read part of the MSU Emergency Task Force statement.
The MSU said it has raised the alert level on the campus and it was being secured by the police and military.
“In sum, the university is not in lockdown, there is no evacuation, and that the campus is under control,” it said.
The bomb, which the police said was made of a 60-millimeter mortar shell, went off just before the early Sunday morning Mass started inside MSU’s Dimaporo Gym.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. blamed “foreign terrorists” for the bombing and instructed the police and military to ensure the safety of the students and civilians.
Philippine National Police Chief Benjamin Acorda Jr., who flew in from Manila on Sunday afternoon, said police officers from Northern Mindanao would be deployed to Marawi to ensure the safety of people, especially the more than 15,000 students in the predominantly Muslim state university.
“We want to assure the students that they are safe with us guarding the campus,” Acorda told a news conference. – Rappler.com