Entire families may have been washed away, says Roxas
MANILA, Philippines – The flashflood that hit the town of New Bataan in Compostela Valley has left 319 people missing, according to Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas, who visited the province on Wednesday.
Roxas said authorities had the whole day Wednesday to conduct search and rescue operations, but the missing individuals were not located.
“Talagang nakakapagdamdamin na entire families may have been washed away,” Roxas told ANC’s “Top Story”.
The search and rescue operations, conducted by a team of barangay officials, soldiers and police, are moving at a slow pace because of a lack of equipment.
“Mabagal at mahirap ito dahil ‘yung tinatapakan nila ay muddy eh, napakakapal ng putik lalo na ‘yung paakyat, so it’s really slow going,” said Roxas.
Roxas also said 78 people have been confirmed dead in the flashflood, but 20 remain unidentified.
Roxas said based on the survivors’ accounts, the water may have flowed from a lake up in the mountains, creating a “waterfall” effect on the town.
He said several areas in New Bataan have been tagged as geohazard zones, but the particular barangays hit by the floods were not located near a waterway.
“Ang sabi nila, mayroong parang pond or lake up in the mountains and it was a natural indentation na bumigay. Kaya rather than the water going along the normal route of along the river or along the stream, naging parang waterfall siya across a broad area,” said Roxas.
He noted, however, that mining engineers in the area will still investigate the incident.
Roxas said he also visited Davao Oriental to assess the damage left by typhoon “Pablo”.
He said he saw about “a hundred thousand felled coconut trees” via chopper on his way from Davao Oriental to Compostela Valley.
“Left and right of the helicopter were hectares of felled coconut and banana trees. Talagang wiped out,” he said.
Three towns in Davao Oriental, where the typhoon made landfall Tuesday morning, remain isolated.
Roxas said a bridge leading to the towns of Cateel, Boston and Baganga collapsed during the height of the typhoon.
He said fishing vessels are being used to distribute relief goods in the affected towns, where there about 150,000 residents.