Maguindanao del Norte

BARMM didn’t see floodwaters from mountainsides coming

Herbie Gomez

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BARMM didn’t see floodwaters from mountainsides coming

SEARCH AND RESCUE. Rescuers brave the flood as they prepare to carry out search and rescue operations in Maguindanao del Norte on October 29, 2022.

Naguib Sinarimbo's Facebook page

'It's been two days already, and the chances of survival are nil. We will now concentrate on the retrieval of bodies,' says Naguib Sinarimbo, the Bangsamoro's interior and local government minister

CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) had warned about the storm but didn’t expect flash floods as destructive as what local officials and residents have seen since Thursday evening, October 27.

It rained hard from Thursday night until Friday morning, October 28, bringing floods and landslides after the loosening of the soil in Upi, Datu Blah Sinsuat, and Datu Odin Sinsuat – all towns in the new province of Maguindanao del Norte.

As of Saturday night, October 29, the BARMM had recorded more than 40 deaths in Maguindanao del Norte alone, and some 578,258 people whose homes were flooded across the region, said Bangsamoro Interior and Local Government Minister Naguib Sinarimbo.

He said the BARMM’s Rapid Emergency Action on Disaster Incidence also counted at least 31 people injured and 15 others missing.

BARMM didn’t see floodwaters from mountainsides coming

BARMM Interim Chief Minister Ahod “Al Haj Murad” Ebrahim said on Saturday afternoon that 10 Maguindanao towns and Cotabato City were devastated as Severe Tropical Storm Paeng (Nalgae) cut a swath of destruction in the province, Cotabato City, and other areas in the special region.

BARMM officials had warned about Paeng but only expected the “usual flood,” and not rampaging floodwaters, Sinarimbo told Rappler on Saturday night.

Sinarimbo said the communities near the sea and other bodies of water saw flooding, but the volume of rampaging floodwaters that cascaded down from the mountain ranges proved to be the most devastating.

He said: “There was no casualty in inundated villages near rivers. Those who died were those living near the mountainsides.”

He said the BARMM government raised the alert level and cautioned local governments and families living near the Liguasan Marsh and rivers about the “usual flooding” as early as Wednesday, October 26, but “we didn’t expect flash floods from the mountain because we were not in the direct path” of the tropical cyclone.

Bridges collapsed and vital road sections became impassable, making it difficult for rescuers and relief aid workers to reach some of the worst-hit areas.

“Bringing relief aid to these areas is one of the challenges,” said Sinarimbo.

The flooding also resulted in the contamination of sources of potable water, and cut off the power supply in many areas in Maguindanao del Norte.

“We’re distributing ready-to-eat food packs because even cooking has become a problem. Water soaked all the firewood,” Sinarimbo said.

He said the region’s officials were directly coordinating post-Paeng operations with the town governments because the Maguindanao del Norte provincial government has yet to set up and function.

The new province was created by a 2021 law that split Maguindanao into two. Its ratification via a plebiscite in September made Maguindanao’s last vice governor, Fatima Ainee Sinsuat, the first governor of Maguindanao del Norte.

Incidentally, Sinsuat’s family is from one of Paeng’s worst-hit towns, Datu Odin Sinsuat – Maguindanao del Norte’s seat of government and where her husband Lester is mayor.

Sinarimbo said Maguindanao del Sur Governor Mariam Mangudadatu has mobilized the provincial government to help the new province which used to be part of her political territory.

“Technically, Maguindanao del Norte is no longer under her (Mangudadatu), but she’s helping,” he said.

Sinarimbo said the BARMM and town governments would shift from rescue to retrieval operations on Sunday, October 30.

“It’s been two days already, and the chances of survival are nil. We will now concentrate on the retrieval of bodies, and move towards relief distribution starting in the evacuation centers,” he said. –

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Herbie Gomez

Herbie Salvosa Gomez is coordinator of Rappler’s bureau in Mindanao, where he has practiced journalism for over three decades. He writes a column called “Pastilan,” after a familiar expression in Cagayan de Oro, tackling issues in the Southern Philippines.