Cebu prepares for evacuees from Tacloban

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Thursday, November 14, 2013

CEBU -- At least three public sports centers in Cebu City will be used to shelter evacuees from Tacloban City, who have started to arrive by the hundreds daily to escape a city they no longer recognize.

City Hall’s Department of Social Welfare and Services (DSWS) chief Dr. Ester Concha said that some 60 families have been accommodated in the Barangay Tinago gym as of Wednesday. Similar centers in Cogon Ramos and Basak San Nicolas are also being readied.

Health care workers from the Lapu-Lapu City Government and Philippine National Red Cross were fielded to the air base in Mactan to assist the evacuees, most of whom have just endured nearly a week without food, clean water and safe homes.


A communal kitchen will be set up to feed them, consultant Jonji Gonzales said.

A Mandaue City official said City Hall will coordinate with the Provincial Government in providing food, as well as transporting those who have relatives in Mandaue.

“We are not seeing the end yet. We are expecting additional visitors,” said Cebu City Administrator Atty. Jose Marie Poblete. Mayor Michael Rama has ordered him to take charge of arrangements for the evacuees.

Aside from the gymnasiums, Poblete said, the City is planning to set up early its Devotees’ City, a row of cargo containers turned into temporary houses for the annual Sinulog festivities in January.

2,344 and rising

City Hall had planned to use 130 cargo containers, enough for at least 1,000 individuals, for next year.

The official death toll from Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in the Philippines has risen to 2,344, said the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council in figures released Wednesday evening.

It said 3,804 were injured, with a further 79 missing. But an unknown number of bodies wait uncollected in Tacloban’s debris.

Some 600,000 persons were displaced, including many residents of Cebu’s northernmost towns.

Tents will be put up to house the refugees who are expected to come to Cebu from the different provinces, especially Leyte, said Cebu Governor Hilario Davide III on Wednesday.

Aside from the relief operations for the northern towns of Cebu, Davide said the Provincial Government needs to be ready for the refugees.

Davide said he was worried about reports so far unverified that prisoners who are believed to have escaped from a jail in Tacloban will also move into the province.

“Kuyawan ko’g mangari na sila diri (I’m worried that these detainees might move here).

We have to be vigilant. We need the PNP (Philippine National Police) to be watchful also. Even the military here, (they need) to watch out for these criminal elements,” Davide said.

Shared home

More families are expected to join those who are already in the Tinago gym, she said.

An unknown number have joined their relatives in Cebu or flown to Manila through the C130 cargo planes of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

In the Tinago gym, Poblete said, the City will be providing facilities such as portalets and water supply, among others.

As for the food assistance, Poblete said the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) will take care of it.

DSWD will also provide mats for the families.

Mayor Rama has instructed the Human Resource and Development Office headed by Atty. Dominic Diño to send City Hall employees to help DSWD repack their relief goods.

DSWD, he said, needs to prepare at least 50,000 bags of relief goods every day.

The mayor has also instructed Poblete to ask if the Cebu City Coliseum can be used as another venue for the preparation of relief goods.

All over Cebu, private groups are preparing food, water and other aid for distribution to the northern part of the province, as well as other areas ravaged by the typhoon.


The air base in Mactan has become a hub for the delivery of help, mostly to Tacloban.

The military cargo planes return with evacuees.

“We will be providing transportation to those who need to transfer to their relatives in Lapu-Lapu City or Metro Cebu,” Gonzales said.

In the last four weeks, the preparation of relief goods has become part of countless Filipinos’ tasks, after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit Bohol and Cebu. The devastation Yolanda left has sent this relief effort organized by businesses, schools, families, churches, overseas Filipinos and many others has gone into overdrive.

But amid the now-familiar call for volunteers to help prepare bags of relief goods, another tragic story surfaced in Yolanda’s wake.

In the first reported deaths as a result of looting, eight people were crushed and died when a wall collapsed as they and thousands of others stormed a rice warehouse in Leyte, said National Food Authority spokesman Rex Estoperez.

The looters in Alang-alang town carted away up to 100,000 sacks of rice, he said. (With an Associated Press report)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on November 14, 2013.

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