-- Marawi residents stay indoors; others trapped in offices
-- Clash occurs before Ramadan
MANILA - A resident in Marawi described Wednesday the panic and destruction that engulfed the southern city as gun battles raged between security forces and extremists.
"The whole night ko pong naririnig ang putukan na sobrang lakas. Iyung ibang putok po ang lakas niya ay parang nagagalaw na ang window namin na made of glass. Hindi naman nabasag, na-feel lang naming nag-shake," Noddy Summer, a resident of Barangay Lilod Saduc, Mapandi.
(We heard loud gunfire the whole night. Some of the shots were so loud that the glass windows of our houses seemed to shake. They did not break but we could feel them rattling.)
The clashes between law enforcers and dozens of suspected local terrorists, including a group led by Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon and Maute group members, erupted around 2 p.m. Tuesday.
The Marawi resident said the gunfire has been continuous except for a 20-minute pause after the morning prayers on Wednesday.
Most of the townspeople, she said, were too afraid to go out of their homes despite dwindling food supplies and the need to get information on possible safe places to evacuate.
"Pagkain, wala, walang enough supply. As for the ma-transfer-an na evacuation, wala, wala po kaming narinig from government, wala from government at iyun ang worry namin," Noddy shared.
"Kahit gusto naming mag-evacuate at umalis, paano at saan? Hindi rin namin if we are safe sa kalsada kung lalabas kami sa bahay."
(We do not have enough supply and we have yet to hear from the government regarding evacuation. That's our primary concern. Even if we want to evacuate and leave, we are not sure how and when we can do so. We do not know if the streets are safe.)
Other residents meanwhile were trapped in their offices, Summer said.
She added that prior to the clashes, majority of Marawi residents flocked to adjoining towns to make preparations for the start of Ramadan this weekend. When the skirmishes erupted, majority of those left in Marawi were children.
"Karamihan po talaga sa mga kamag-anak at pamilya namin, na-trap sa labas -- sa Iligan City and Cagayan de Oro... Karamihan lang po ng mga residente, ang naiwan ay mga bata," Noddy said.
(Most of our relatives are trapped outside, in lligan City and Cagayan de Oro. Most of the residents left are children.)
Noddy is currently the only adult in her household. With her are 5 children, aged between 3 and 14.
She pleaded with the government to defer airstrikes against the terrorists until all the townspeople are evacuated.
"Nananawagan po ako sa Philippine government na huwag gumamit ng aerial strike, iyun ang pinakakinatatakutan ko. Kasi tingnan niyo ang mapa -- ang Marawi City, magkakatabi ang mga bahay," Noddy said, her voice quavering.
"Sana naiintidihan ng buong mundo na iyung tinatawag na mga Muslim, hindi lahat terorista. Kami ang mga kawawang biktima."
(I urge the government not to use aerial strikes. If you look at the map, the houses in Marawi City are very near each other. May the whole world understand that Muslima are not terrorists, we are victims.)
Two soldiers and one police officer have been killed in the ongoing clashes, while 12 others were wounded.
President Rodrigo Duterte has placed the entire Mindanao island under Martial Law, which allows warrantless arrests and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.
The government urged civilians on Mindanao to stay in their homes or flee if it was safe, and the military said reinforcements of an initial 500 soldiers were on the way, but were being hamstrung by rebels blocking roads.
The militants belong to the Maute group, which has pledged allegiance to Islamic State in the Middle East. Previous military offensives against the Maute, based in Lanao del Sur province, have lasted several days.