MAGUINDANAO: Disaster responders in this “land of flooded plains” were busy over the weekend dispatching relief goods to low-lying areas initially affected by floods caused by heavy water flowing in Rio Grande de Mindanao since last late week, while gearing up for possible third state of calamity this year.
Lynette Estandarte, provincial budget officer and concurrent head of special relief operation team, said heavy downpour forced water along the Dumagil dam in South Cotabato to spill over to the Alip River, completely inundating the low-lying areas in Maguindanao.
The Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council of Maguindanao (PDRRM) initially reported the affected towns as Pandag, Datu Paglas, Buluan, Raja Buayan, Datu Salibo and Sultan sa Barongis.
Sultan sa Barongis, located near the Liguasan marsh, is the most affected town, where the PDRRM recorded 12 barangays with more or less 3,000 families suffering from flood caused by a large amount of water flowing from the mountains toward the rivers of Ala and Kabulnan.
Displaced villagers from Sultan sa Barongis are currently sheltered at the municipal gym and the office of the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
Some 500 families from 12 barangays in Datu Salibu were also displaced, while water level in nearby town Datu Paglas reportedly reached as high as a person’s neck.
Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu said they are continuously monitoring the water level and started purchasing additional goods as the flood emerged in southern part of the province.
“We’ve already started purchasing relief goods for other low-lying areas in southern part of the province namely Mangudadatu, Buluan, Pandag and SK Pendatun, Pagalungan, Muntawal, Talitay and Northern Kabuntalan,” Mangudadatu said.
Mangudadatu urged residents in flood-prone areas to start vacating their villages as water levels are “slowly increasing” with the continuous rains.
He said the provincial government is “ready” in case the floods worsen, citing that the province was placed twice under state of calamity and that is still in effect because of the drought and armed conflict.
According to statistics from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, over 14,000 villagers remained in evacuation shelters as of last month. The villagers were displaced by the military operation against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter that started on February 27 and ended on March 25.
Meanwhile, the dry spell had damaged crops in 16 Maguindanao towns amounting to about P800 million, according to local agriculture officials, who claimed that some of the El Niño-affected farms belonged to some of the evacuees.