MANILA -- An official of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) said Monday that residents in Maguindanao were caught off guard by the flash floods brought about by tropical storm Paeng over the weekend.
"Itong communities natin sa baba, sa matagal na panahon hindi naman sila tinatamaan ng flash flood at saka landslide... Talagang nagulat 'yung communities sa nangyari na pagbuhos ng malakas na tubig na may halong mud tsaka bato," BARMM minister for interior and local government Naguib Sinarimbo told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.
As of Monday, the death toll in the Bangsamoro region has reached 53, while 14 remain missing.
According to Sinarimbo, communities below the mountain ranges in Upi, Datu Blah and Datu Odin Sinsuat were more prepared in handling earthquakes and tsunamis since the region was mostly spared from typhoons.
"Traditionally, hindi kami nasa path ng typhoon... Ang pinaghahandaan sa communities na ito ay malakas na earthquake at tsunami kasi 'yun 'yung na-experience nila nung 1976... Itong nangyari sa ngayon bago, 'yung rainfall, masyadong malakas at matagal, almost the whole night noong [Oct] 28 ng gabi," he explained.
Sinarimbo said deforestation might have contributed to the unusual flash floods experienced during typhoon Paeng's onslaught.
"Contributory 'yung pagkabawas ng mga kahoy sa taas natin. Noon pang 1970s, may mga logging permits na grinant doon so part po 'yun ng naging problema. Naputulan ng mga kahoy 'yung mountain ranges na 'yan," he said.
Meanwhile, the Bangsamoro government has started focusing its efforts on retrieving possible casualties.
"Beginning kahapon, nag-focus na kami sa retrieval ops kasi 'yung chances po na mag-survive pa 'yan ay slim na po 'yun. Tsaka nag-focus tayo sa relief ops," Sinarimbo said.
The Bangsamoro government has already put the region under a state of calamity.
The national death toll from Paeng has jumped to 98, the NDRRMC said earlier in the day.