TAGUM CITY: GIRL SURVIVED 24 HRS IN MUD DIES / 'PABLO' FORMS NEW RIVER AS WIDE AS EDSA



[PHOTO - TOO LITTLE, TOO SOON Aimee, 7, (with rescuers) died of hypothermia Friday. Her father and brother are still missing. DENNIS JAY SANTOS /INQUIRER MINDANAO]

TAGUM CITY, DECEMBER 9, 2012 (INQUIRER) If help had come earlier, Aimee (not Imee as earlier reported) Kay Sayson may still be alive today.

But the 7-year-old daughter of an overseas Filipino worker (OFW), who was rescued from muddy waters after Typhoon “Pablo” struck New Bataan town in Compostela Valley on Dec. 5, was pronounced dead on arrival when she was brought to Davao Regional Hospital (DRH) on the same day.

She had been half-submerged in the waters for nearly a day before she was found by the rescuers the next morning.

Sayson had become some kind of a gauge for rescuers hoping to find more survivors of the tragedy, because at her age, she had endured the ordeal for 24 hours.

After she was plucked out of the mud by rescuers, Sayson was wrapped in a heavy blanket and layers of plastic. She was trembling.

Dead on arrival

Rashman Lim, an emergency nurse at the government-run DRH, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer Sayson was “dead on arrival” when she was rushed to DRH due to hypothermia.

“She was already [in a state of] rigor mortis when she was brought here at 11 a.m.,” Lim said.

He said the girl’s body had already been claimed by a relative, about 12 hours after she was rushed in the hospital.

Sayson was with her father, Rommel, and brother, Ayel, at their house in New Bataan when Pablo was battering the province. Her mother, Inideth Hayana, works abroad.

Rommel and Ayel remained missing to this day, among the 406 individuals who are the subject of search-and-rescue operations all over Compostela Valley.

Looking for Aimee’s ma

Labor officials are trying to locate Sayson’s mother.

“We’re now tracing the mother’s whereabouts,” Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said. She said the OFW could have been deployed in any of three states—Kuwait, Taiwan and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

“The one in UAE with the same name is not from Compostela so we already ruled that out. We’re still checking Kuwait and Taiwan,” she added.

Baldoz said President Aquino instructed her, along with the Department of Foreign Affairs, to communicate with the OFW, once identified.

“We will explain to her what happened and convince her to come home. The government is ready to help her with livelihood assistance. Hopefully, we can convince her to come home,” the labor chief said.

“We are still hoping to find more survivors, however slim the chance might be,” Compostela Valley Gov. Arturo Uy said.

Rescue teams were concentrating their efforts in New Bataan town, where at least 398 are still unaccounted for.

Augmentation teams from other areas have also arrived to assist in the search-and-rescue operations, with teams coming as far as from Luzon, according to Compostela Valley first district Rep. Ma. Carmen Zamora.

“I was informed that two teams from the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) are already here to help in locating those still missing,” Zamora said.

She said sniffing dogs from the police were also being mobilized to aid in the search.

Uy said authorities attempted to bring food, medicine and other provisions by helicopters to areas isolated by Pablo on Thursday but the lack of safe areas to land on had forced authorities to abort the mission.

Ground zero

As a result, Uy said residents had to walk for kilometers to where the choppers landed before they could get their provisions or to bring their injured relatives so they could get medical attention.

But as of Friday morning, he said 4×4 vehicles could already access these areas because rescuers—armed with chainsaws—cleared the roads of downed trees.

During his visit to New Bataan on Friday, President Aquino assured survivors that the government would continue its operations to find those still missing.

“Those who are missing, I want accounted for, preferably alive,” he told some 2,000 people assembled at New Bataan public grounds.

In Davao Oriental, Gov. Corazon Malanyaon said government agencies had started distributing food stuff to the displaced families.

“The goal is for everyone to get food every day,” she said, adding that there are about 50,000 people affected by the typhoon in the province, considered the “ground zero.”

Malanyaon’s house in Cateel was also heavily damaged during the typhoon.

“But that is nothing compared to what the others have experienced and continue to experience,” she said.

As of 12 noon on Friday, the provincial disaster response office said it had recorded a total of 216 deaths, 59 of which are from Cateel.

The Cateel police office had reported that 101 people had been killed in the town on Thursday.

Telecommunication lines in the towns of Cateel, Baganga and Boston towns remained down as of Friday afternoon.

Missing fishermen

In General Santos City, relatives of the 396 city-based fishermen, who went missing in the high seas of Surigao del Norte, are anxiously waiting for any information on their kin.

On Thursday, around 500 persons trooped to Makar Wharf following information that a sea vessel carrying cadavers of some of the missing fishermen was to dock here.

But they found the information to be false.

Fishing magnate Marfin Tan, former president of the Socsksargen Federation of Fishing & Allied Industries Inc., said a total of 11 mother boats, two carrier boats and 27 light boats, along with the crew, went missing while sailing off Surigao del Norte as Pablo was making landfall.

The figure of 396 missing fishermen was correct, he said.

Three fishermen from Malapatan town in Sarangani province, who were rescued by a fishing boat off Davao Oriental after Pablo made landfall, had arrived home.

Jerome Luchavez, 22; his younger brother Rosvelle, 20; and Lemuel Gomez told reporters that an empty ice box saved them from drowning when winds overturned their boat.

Five of their colleagues, however, were swept away by huge waves and remain missing to this day. With reports from Dennis Santos, Frinston Lim, Nico Alconaba and Aquiles Zonio, Inquirer Mindanao and Tina G. Santos

Pablo’ forms new river as wide as Edsa By DJ Yap Philippine Daily Inquirer


[NEW RIVER Families cross a new river formed after Typhoon “Pablo” swept this area in New Bataan, Compostela Valley, Tuesday. INQUIRER/ MARIANE BERMUDEZ]

NEW BATAAN, Compostela Valley—A new “river” as wide as the highway belt Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (Edsa) in Metro Manila has sprung up here, indicating the watery fury of Typhoon “Pablo” has forever altered the landscape of this remote mining and farming town.

As the mud settled and receded into the many water channels crisscrossing the town, dazed villagers were shocked to find how the terrain had changed the morning after the typhoon hit on Tuesday.

What used to be a field of coconut trees and wooden houses in Purok (zone) 4 had turned into a gushing river flanked by rocks and boulders that had tumbled down the mountain.

“That river? It was not there before. Those rocks? All those came from the mountain,” Sebastian Mandantes, a resident of neighboring Camanlangan village, said in Cebuano.

“There is no name for that river yet,” he said when asked what the channel was called.

The rushing stream of water, according to residents, had “branched out” from another river named Calyawan at the height of Pablo’s wrath in the mountainous village of Andap, the most severely hit in the town of 45,000 people, and from which most of the more than 220 who died in the typhoon lived.

Coconut and banana grower Genovevo Valencia, 48, said Calyawan had become so swollen it unleashed a great torrent of water that stripped the topsoil, dislodged large rocks, and swept virtually all of Andap away, carrying people, trees and debris.

The muddy torrent finally crashed into the settlements below, depositing bodies from the village on the slope and felling coconut trees that looked like snapped twigs by the side of the “riverbank” the next day.

Some of the coconut trees were bent unnaturally, as though bowing toward the northwest, the very same path Typhoon Pablo had taken as it cut across Mindanao, a place thought to be safe from storms until December 2011 when Tropical Storm “Sendong” ravaged northern Mindanao and the Visayas, especially Cagayan de Oro and Iligan cities.

Pablo followed Sendong’s act on about the same date. It was the strongest typhoon to hit the Philippines this year, with more than 400 dead, 101 of them in New Bataan, and damaging at least P4 billion in agriculture and property.

Bodies here and there

On Friday morning, the new river in New Bataan was still flowing strong, as deep as a man’s waist and as wide or wider in places like Edsa in Metro Manila. Search-and-rescue teams were still at work, retrieving bodies that turned up here and there.

The river stretched as far as the eye could see, and villagers believed it was flowing into one of the many tributaries of Agusan River to the north.

For Feliciano and Alejandra Medrano, a couple in their late 60s living in Purok 8, an adjacent hillside community, it was a river of horrors.

“That river brought the dead from Barangay (village) Andap to our barangay,” Alejandra said. Only two people in their neighborhood died, but their community was distraught to find so many corpses in their midst.

In New Bataan, 127 people have been recorded as dead as of mid-Friday, and 398 remained missing, according to a tally at the municipal gym in the town center. Most of the 71 identified dead came from Andap.

The Medrano couple narrated their ordeal.

At about 6 a.m., a neighbor shouted at them to evacuate to higher ground, as their small wooden house did not seem like it could withstand the typhoon raging outside.

When they got out of the door, they saw that the floodwater was already high. The Medranos tried to cross to the other side to join their neighbors.

“We were locked in an embrace. But the water was too strong. We were swept away,” Alejandra said.

She recalled pulling her husband up each time he went underwater. Feliciano, who was using a stick as a cane, said he had arthritis, which made it difficult for him to wade through the flood with its strong current.

Chapel refuge

Alejandra said they eventually managed to pull themselves out of the water’s way and joined their neighbors in a chapel, where they lay huddled and waited the storm out.

As the current was still too strong, the villagers spent four days in the chapel, subsisting on rice and banana, with kerosene lamps to illuminate the place at night.

They collected water from a ground spring and rationed the modest provisions among themselves.

“We didn’t want to leave because we at least had bananas, and we knew that there wasn’t a lot of food in the evacuation centers,” their neighbor, Leticia Galo, 43, said.

But eventually, food and gas ran out, their cell phone batteries gave out, and many in the group had to make the difficult trek to the town center to look for food, medicines and fuel.

They also worked together to gather the decomposing bodies.

Feliciano said about 50 people still crammed the chapel, a couple of whom were too old to cross the new river, and many children too young to do so.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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