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In the wake of Bopha, residents still recovering from Washi

One year on, thousands still suffer storm's wrath

A woman and her grandson in one of the temporary relocation sites for victims of Typhoon Washi last year. (Photo by Lance Baconguis) A woman and her grandson in one of the temporary relocation sites for victims of Typhoon Washi last year. (Photo by Lance Baconguis)
  • Lance Baconguis, Cagayan de Oro City
  • Philippines
  • December 17, 2012
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A year after tropical storm Washi killed more than 1,000 people and left hundreds of thousands homeless in Mindanao, residents in the worst-hit cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan are still struggling to recover from the disaster.

Lack of water and electricity are making the lives of survivors unberabale in the relocation areas. The absence of roads and the longer distance they have to cover to get to and from work in the cities add to their misery.

In the village of Calaanan in Cagayan de Oro, where the government resettled about 1,000 families after the storm struck on December 16, 2011, the water supply is far away and is especially scarce. “It’s only available in the middle of the night," one resident said.

Rhodora Bulosan, who heads a survivors organization, said people have to wake up at midnight and line up to fetch water or take a bath.

In Macapaya village, residents have had to dig a well to collect rainwater. They also have to contribute five pesos a day to buy gasoline for a power generator that supplies electricity to 130 houses. 

Children have to rely on garbage trucks to take them to school via a muddy stretch of road.

Bulosan said other relocation sites have the same problems. She said the government has failed to provide the basic necessities for residents.

In Macapaya, only 130 houses were built although the government had promised to provide 900 homes for displaced families.

Nila Padla, head of Cagayan de Oro’s Estate Management Division, admitted only 3,150 houses across the city had been built.

The typhoon left 8,559 families homeless in Cagayan de Oro and 6,404 in Iligan City.

Cagayan congressman, Rufus Rodriguez, said the government is doing its best to deliver the required services.

But to many survivors, its best is not good enough.

In Isla Delta, some 30 families have returned to the village of Consolacion which has been declared a "no build zone." Isla Delta was one of the most worst-hit areas hit by last year's flash floods and, more recently, Typhoon Bopha.

Leo Navarro said he decided to go back because the area where his family was relocated is 25 kms from the city.

“The cost of getting to and from work is too much. I cannot afford to live there," he said. Most of those who have returned to Isla Delta work nearby at a quarry close to the river which burst its banks during the storm.

Navarro said the only way he and his family can survive is by continuing to take the risk of living just a few meters away from the riverbank.

Bulosan has accused the government of providing "misleading information" to whitewash the situation the disaster survivors are facing. 

"Nothing much has changed in our lives," she said, adding that life has become "more difficult and is in a more sorry state."

Issues surrounding the misuse of funds for relief, relocation and rehabilitation efforts remain unresolved, she said.

"People have been victims of the flood, now they have fallen prey to snail-paced bureaucracy, government inaction and insensitivity,” Bulosan added.

To mark the anniversary of the disaster, residents held a "prayer vigil for justice" yesterday in the village of Carmen, one of Cagayan de Oro’s most devastated areas.

The city government also held its own commemoration "to celebrate survivingl the crisis."

The celebration with the theme: “Remembrance, Reflection and Celebration of Life, Looking and Moving Ever Forward” included prayers, games, the distribution of Christmas gifts and a mass wedding.

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