Death toll from ‘Agaton’ rises to 40, thousands flee

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One of the many bridges destroyed by the slow-moving low pressure area turned tropical depression Agaton in wide areas of Mindanao.  Several thousand people were ordered evacuated to escape landslides and floodwaters. PHOTO BY AL JACINTO

One of the many bridges destroyed by the slow-moving low pressure area turned tropical depression Agaton in wide areas of Mindanao. Several thousand people were ordered evacuated to escape landslides and floodwaters. PHOTO BY AL JACINTO

THE death toll from Tropical Depression Agaton rose to 40, 28 flights were cancelled and thousands evacuated to safer grounds after landslides and floods drowned more provinces from the slow-moving first weather disturbance for the year.

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The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) reported on Sunday that most of the deaths were attributed to landslides and drowning.

Of the 40 deaths, 18 each were from Davao and Caraga regions, three in Region 10 (Northern Mindanao) and one in Region 9 the Zamboanga Peninsula. Five persons were reported missing in Regions 11 and 9 while the injured persons remains at 65.

The damage caused by Tropical Depression Agaton was estimated to P313.78 million including P101.118 million in infrastructure and P212.66 million in agriculture in Regions 10, 11 and Caraga.

The NDDRMC said that 123,444 families or 587,115 persons were affected in 635 barangays in 90 municipalities in 15 provinces of Regions 10 (Northern Mindanao), 11 (Davao Region), Caraga and Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Of these, 33,388 families or 161,808 persons were displaced and served inside 436 evacuation centers.

The NDRRMC also said 7,386 passengers of 39 vessels, 72 rolling cargoes and nine motorbancas were still stranded in the ports of Cebu; Dumaguete; Tagbilaran; Maasin; Cam Sur; Sorsogon; and Masbate as of 6 a.m. on Sunday.It added that 52 roads and 21 bridges were not passable in Regions 8, 10, 11 and Caraga.

The NDRRMC said the number of totally damaged houses reached 711 while 1,189 were partially damaged in Regions 5, 10, 11 and Caraga.

The disaster agency reported 22 incidents, 14 of which were landslides, and six flooding and flashfloods and two maritime incidents in Regions 8, 9, 10, 11, Caraga and ARMM.

More areas have also been placed under a state of calamity, including Liang, Surigao del Sur; Tago, Surigao del Sur; San Miguel, Surigao del Sur; and Bislig, Surigao del Sur.

AT least six provinces remain under storm warning signal as tropical depression Agaton slightly accelerates, causing pre-emptive evacuation in some affected areas.

Capt. Alberto Caber, spokesman, Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) on Sunday said that pre-emptive evacuation of 138 families were enforced in the coastal barangays of Cantilan and Cortes towns and Tandag City, all in Surigao del Sur.

The same, he added, was also enforced to residents of Barangay Cabinuangan, New Bataan, Compostela Valley where 37 families were evacuated to safer grounds.

Caber said the national highway along Barangay Nurcia, Lanuza, Surigao del Sir was rendered not passable to all types of vehicles due to landslide.

Eastmincom commander Lt. Gen. Raineir Cruz has instructed all military units in the areas to assist the Municipal Risk Reduction Management Councils, volunteers, local officials and the police for the rescue and relief operations.

As of 10 a.m. on Sunday, Agaton was located 205 km southeast of Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur or at 230 km east of Davao City with a maximum sustained winds of 55 kph near the center.

Under public storm warning signal No.1 were the provinces of Surigao del Sur, Agusan del Sur, Davao Oriental, Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur and Compostela Valley.

By Monday morning Agaton is forecast to be at 120 km southeast of Davao City, 60 km of Gen. Santos City by Tuesday and out of the Philippine area of responsibility by Wednesday.

A landslide on Sunday cut off the highway linking several towns in Surigao del Sur province in southern Philippines, the army in Zamboanga City said.

Eastmincom spokesman Caber said heavy rains the past days softened the soil and eventually eroded causing a massive landslide in Lanuza town. “Army troops were sent to the area to help the Public Works [department]to clear the highway and assist in the evacuation of residents near the area,” he told The Manila Times.

A damaged concrete bridge linking Lanao del Norte to Western Mindanao is also hampering the flow of trade in the region and repair could take weeks, probably months before a new bridge is erected.

A huge part of the bridge in the village of Napo in Linamon town was broken due to continuous rains and all land travels are impossible.

Travellers now have to walk through a muddy and rough terrain before they can take a boat that would bring them to the other side of the village.

“It was really difficult now because the bridge is broken. There is no way to cross the bridge, but through the river down below where a fleet of small wooden boats now operate. We still don’t know how long this would be over,” one security guard at the passenger terminal of the Rural Transit Mindanao said.

Traders are now forced to use courier firms to send cargoes from Cagayan de Oro City to Zamboanga City. The Department of Public Works and Highways said it is already working on the damaged bridge and other bridges in Mindanao damaged by the rains.

The Manila International Airport Authority said the cancelled flights were: Cebu Pacific fights 5J 381/5J 382 (Manila-Cagayan-Manila), 5J 397/5J 398 (Manila-Cagayan-Manila), 5J 785/5J 786 (Manila-Butuan-Manila), 5J 383/5J 384 (Manila-Cagayan-Manila), 5J 767/5J 768 (Manila-Surigao-Manila), and 5J 787/5J 788 (Manila-Butuan-Manila).

PAL Express flights 2P 5967/2P 5968 (Manila-Busuanga-Manila), 2P 869/2P 870 (Manila-Cagayan-Manila), 2P 527/2P 528 (Manila-Cagayan-Manila), and 2P 967/2P 968 (Manila-Butuan-Manila).

Another PAL Express flight, 2P 045/2P 046 was also cancelled due to aircraft situation.

Zest Air also grounded its flights Z2 304/Z2 305 (Manila-Kalibo-Manila), Z2 304/Z2 305 (Manila-Cagayan-Manila), and Z2 593/Z2 594 (Manila-Cagayan-Manila).

With reports from  Ritchie Horario, Al Jacinto  and Benjie Vergara

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  1. Apology to the Eastern Mindanao Command and Capt. Alberto Caber. The photo above was provided by Capt. Caber and not my photo.

    I don’t know how the desk people could mix all things up!

    Below is my story filed for The Manila Times:

    Landslide, broken bridges cut off provinces in typhoon Agaton’s path by Al Jacinto

    Caption: Army (Eastern Mindanao Command) photos released to The Manila Times show some damaged bridges in Compostela Valley province.

    ZAMBOANGA CITY (Al Jacinto / Jan. 19, 2014) – A landslide on Sunday cut off the highway linking several towns in Surigao del Sur province in southern Philippines, the army said.

    Capt. Alberto Caber, a spokesman for the Eastern Mindanao Command, said heavy rains the past days softened the soil and eventually eroded causing a massive landslide in Lanuza town. “Army troops were sent to the area to help the Public Works (department) to clear the highway and assist in the evacuation of residents near the area,” he told The Manila Times.

    He said the highway is impassable.

    Caber said typhoon ‘Agaton’ (International code name: Lingling) has already forced hundreds of people from coastal villages in Cortes town and Tandag City in Surigao del Sur to evacuate to safer areas due to danger posed by storm surges.

    He said 27 people had died from the typhoon with one more missing and 28 others injured. The typhoon submerged many areas and caused flash floods that affected over 51,000 families in 257 villages in 53 towns in Eastern Mindanao alone. He said 20 bridges were either damaged or destroyed by the typhoon – 15 in Davao Oriental; three in Compostela Valley and two in Agusan del Sur.

    A damaged concrete bridge linking Lanao del Norte to Western Mindanao is also hampering the flow of trade in the region and repair could take weeks, probably months before a new bridge is erected.

    A huge part of the bridge in the village of Napo in Linamon town was broken due to continuous rains and all land travels are impossible. Travellers now have to walk through a muddy and rough terrain before they can take a boat that would bring them to the other side of the village.

    Cargoes from provincial buses were either returned to their owners or carried by laborers down to the river and transferred to boats that would also bring them to the other side of the village where they are loaded to buses.

    “It was really difficult now because the bridge is broken. There is no way to cross the bridge, but through the river down below where a fleet of small wooden boats now operate. We still don’t know how long this would be over,” one security guard at the passenger terminal of the Rural Transit Mindanao said.

    Traders are now forced to use courier firms to send cargoes from Cagayan de Oro City to Zamboanga City. The Department of Public Works and Highways said it is already working on the damage bridge. Other bridges in Mindanao were also damaged by the rains. (Al Jacinto)