Swaths of Surigao del Sur flooded as Auring heads for E. Samar

By: Erwin Mascariñas, Jhesset Enano, Ryan Rosauro - Philippine Daily Inquirer | February 22,2021 - 06:53 AM

‘WORST IN LOCAL HISTORY’ Houses in Tandag City lie submerged in floodwaters on Sunday as incessant rain brought by Tropical Storm Auring (international name: Dujuan) swells the Tandag River, inundating towns and cities in Surigao del Sur province. —ERWIN MASCARIÑAS

TANDAG CITY, Surigao del Sur, Philippines — A river snaking through this city from the hinterlands of Surigao del Sur province swelled and spilled at the height of rains brought by Tropical Storm Auring, submerging villages in what residents described as the worst flooding in local history.

Hundreds of families fled to evacuation centers as the rain, which started at 8 p.m. on Saturday and continued until noon the next day, triggered neck-deep floods in communities downstream of the Tandag River.

The rampaging flood also carried a huge volume of debris, including logs, that had piled up near a bridge in Barangay Telaje, toward the mouth of the river.
The state weather bureau on Sunday hoisted tropical cyclone wind signal No. 2 over several provinces in the Visayas and Mindanao as it expected gale-force winds when Auring enters and crosses the country on Monday.

Auring (international name: Dujuan) slightly picked up speed on Sunday as it neared Eastern Visayas and Caraga regions, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration said.

As of 4 p.m., the storm was spotted 355 kilometers east of Surigao City in Surigao del Norte province, packing peak winds of 65 km per hour near the center and gusts of up to 80 kph.

Forecasters said it might maintain its strength but would likely weaken into a tropical depression even before landfall.

First storm of the year

Auring, the first storm of 2021, is expected to hit the Dinagat Islands, Eastern Samar—particularly its southern portion, including Homonhon Island—and Leyte by Monday morning. Throughout Sunday, it was almost stationary over the Philippine Sea but later slightly accelerated at 20 kph, moving northwest.

It is expected to blow toward the southern part of Masbate City by Monday afternoon, and head north-northwest of Coron, Palawan, by Tuesday.

Signal No. 2 was raised over the central and southern portions of Eastern Samar and Samar, and the eastern portions of Leyte and Southern Leyte.

In Surigao del Sur, floodwaters engulfed houses and communities, displacing 9,552 families, or 30,650 people, in 15 towns and two cities, provincial disaster response officials reported.

The evacuees came from the towns of Barobo, Bayabas, Cagwait, Cantilan, Carmen, Carrascal, Cortes, Hinatuan, Lanuza, Lingig, Madrid, Marihatag, San Agustin, Tagbina and Tago, and the cities of Bislig and Tandag.

In Barobo, 1,431 families from eight villages were taken to 14 evacuation centers while 306 families were moved to safety in Cortes town.

“This is the first time that a flood this big happened in our village,” said Bernie Tradio Vistal, a resident of Purok Tulay Uno in Tandag’s Barangay San Agustin Sur.
“The water was … up to our chest inside our house and I lost my boat, which rammed against the newly constructed bridge,” Vistal said.

Rescuers waded through waist-deep waters to get to the flooded communities and in other towns of Surigao del Sur, while landslides closed roads in Lanuza, Marihatag and Cortes, all in Surigao del Sur, and in Kitcharao, Agusan del Norte.

Storm surge

As of Sunday noon, floodwaters had engulfed most of the national highway leading to San Miguel in the interior.Apart from the swelling of tributaries, flooding hit some sections of Marihatag due to storm surge, according to several residents.

Brig. Gen. Allan Hambala, head of the Army’s 401st Infantry Brigade, reported on Sunday that soldiers and policemen evacuated 1,003 families in Tandag’s 10 barangays and 3,602 families in the towns of Lanuza, Cortes, Carmen, Tago, Madrid and Cantilan.

The Surigao del Sur II Electric Cooperative cut power in 12 flooded towns and cities. In Misamis Oriental, power interruptions hit the western part of the province as strong winds felled trees on transmission lines.

A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT After hours of pouring rain, the Tandag River—which snakes through Tandag City—swelled and overflowed on Saturday night onward, leaving many communities in neck-deep water and forcing hundreds of families to flee to safer grounds. —ERWIN MASCARIÑAS

In Agusan del Norte, motorists were advised that a flooded portion of the national highway between the villages of Colorado and Magsaysay in Jabonga town was not passable.At least 425 families, or 1,633 people, were evacuated as a preemptive move in Leyte and Southern Leyte. In Cebu, the provincial government instructed the local police to persuade residents living near rivers and seas to be evacuated. It set aside P200 million for quick disaster response and mitigation and rehabilitation projects.

Prayer

Negros Occidental Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson ordered all emergency operation centers in the province to be ready. “Together, we pray that the track of the storm will veer away from us,” he said.

In Bohol, 502 people were transferred to safer grounds in Candijay town.

Malacañang on Sunday said it was closely monitoring Auring and the storm-hit communities, and urged residents to “remain vigilant, be prepared and ready for possible evacuation … as a precautionary measure.”

In a Viber message to reporters, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council and government line agencies had been providing relief and assistance to those affected.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development has relief stockpiles and standby funds amounting to P1.2 billion in its central office, field offices and its National Resource Operations Center, he said.

The Department of Health also prepositioned P19.5 million worth of medicines, medical supplies and health kits in its health centers.

Storm Signal No. 1 was up over Sorsogon, Masbate (including Ticao and Burias Islands), Albay, Catanduanes, the eastern portions of Camarines Sur and Romblon, Northern Samar, the rest of Eastern Samar, Samar, Leyte and Southern Leyte, Biliran, Cebu, Bohol, Siquijor, Negros Oriental, the northern and central portions of Negros Occidental and Iloilo, the eastern portion of Aklan, Capiz, Guimaras, Surigao del Sur, Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Davao Oriental, Davao de Oro, Davao del Norte, Camiguin, Misamis Oriental and Bukidnon. —With reports from Joey Gabieta, Leo S. Udtohan, Ador Vincent Mayol, Carla P. Gomez and Jerome Aning

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