PHILIPPINE National Police chief, General Debold M. Sinas yesterday said there will be a continuing rescue and relief operations in Cagayan Valley which was badly ravaged by typhoon ‘Ulysses’ late last week and left at least 23 people dead.
The PNP chief said that more police disaster response personnel, equipment and resources have been rushed to the region where a government-wide effort is underway to provide relief and assistance to communities badly affected by heavy flooding triggered by the typhoon.
The equipment fielded include 11 additional rubber boats and two fiberglass rescue boats tasked to bring more people to safety. The operations are being supervised by Police Regional Office 2 director, Brigadier Gen. Crizaldo O. Nieves with the equipment coming from the National Capital Region Police Office, Police Regional Office 1, PRO3, PNP Maritime Group and the Cordillera police.
Three PNP ambulances with a complement of doctors and nurses from PRO1, PRO3 and PRO-Cordillera are also now in Cagayan Valley helping treat people who were forced to leave their homes and find shelter in government-run evacuation centers.
Two platoons of search-and-rescue trained personnel from the PNP Special Action Force are also helping in ongoing rescue operations in the region
Gen. Sinas said that a PNP augmentation force of 400 police disaster response personnel were deployed to Cagayan Valley to join ongoing rescue and relief efforts by local authorities.
Two PNP helicopters are also in Cagayan Valley to assist and direct ground operations, and possible medical evacuation.
The PNP chief said that five police heavy-lift troop carriers late last week transported assorted medical supplies, 200 sacks of rice, 200 boxes of bottled water, 40 boxes of noodles, 20 boxes of corned beef, 50 boxes of sardines, 20 boxes of crackers and 2,000 pcs of assorted food packs to the region while another shipment of 5,000 food packs also arrived from PRO Cordillera.
The PNP chief on Saturday flew to Tueguegarao City to supervise all ongoing police search, rescue, relief and retrieval operations in Cagayan Valley.
The top cop was briefed by Brig. Gen. Nieves on the progress of their SAR operations in the region where 23 have been confirmed to have died as a result of strong winds and heavy rains triggered by the typhoon.
Of the 23 fatalities, Nieves said 14 were buried in landslides: four in Cagayan and 10 in Nueva Viscaya; two drowned in Cagayan; three in Isabela; and one in Quirino province; and three died of electrocution in Cagayan.
Five others were reported missing: three in Cagayan and two in Isabela while three were injured in Cagayan.
Nieves said the four landslide victims were killed after their home located along the Assassi-Temblique boundary road in Baggao, Cagayan were buried under tons of rocks and mud 11 a.m. last Thursday.
Another 10 were killed in a landslide in Bgy. Runruno in Quezon, Nueva Viscaya 2 a.m. Thursday, he added.
Other landslides triggered by heavy continuous rains which loosened mountain soil were recorded in Purok Dugtungan in Bgy. Cadongdongan in Santa Praxedes, Cagayan 5 p.m. last Tuesday; Bgy. Centro 2 and Magsaysay in Lasam, Cagayan 6 p.m. Tuesday; Sitio Tueg in Bgy. Bitag Grande in Baggao municipality 2 a.m. Friday; and Bgy. Centro and Allasitan in Pamplona, Cagayan around 8:40 a.m. Friday, said Nieves.
Heavy flooding also swept 4 cities, 84 municipalities and 183 barangays in the region rendering 79 roads impassable to vehicles.
Nieves said that as of press time, a total of 12,842 families consisting of 50,326 individuals are still being housed in 1,288 government-run evacuation centers in the region: 331 of them in Cagayan; 463 in Isabela; 289 in Nueva Viscaya; 139 in Batanes Island; and 40 in Santiago City.
There were also a total of 11,990 families consisting of over 44,000 persons gathered outside evacuation centers after being forced out of their homes by the floodwater and landslides.
Nieves said that despite persistent warnings, many residents living in flood and landslide-prone areas refused to evacuate their homes forcing their forced evacuation by the police.
Gen. Sinas has ordered the deployment of all available police manpower and resources in the region to help in the continuing SAR operations amid a growing concern regarding the risk of contracting the COVID-19 virus in the crowded evacuation centers.
Gen. Sinas said he went straight to the calamity-stricken areas in the region to directly assess the situation and oversee the search and rescue cum relief operations of his men.
However, he maintained that police rescuers should remain conscious of their health conditions as they bravely face the hazardous situation to bring the people to safety from the unprecedented floods in Cagayan and Isabela.
Gen. Sinas assured the local populace of a no-letup drive of the police, in cooperation with other rescuers from the military and the Coast Guard to rescue people, many of whom were forced to stay at their rooftop following the heavy rains which caused Magat Dam to open at least five of its gates in order to release a huge amount of water.