Philippines: Mindanao Floods - Information Bulletin n° 1

This bulletin is being issued for information only, and reflects the current situation and details available at this time. The Philippine Red Cross (PRC), with the support of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), has determined that external assistance is not required at this time, but continue to monitor the evolving situation.

The situation

Moderate-to-heavy rains dumped by the tail end of a cold front and a series of low pressure areas have caused flooding in several provinces of Visayas and Mindanao islands in the Philippines, killing nine people, damaging more than 1,300 homes, temporarily displacing at least 334,000 people, washing away livelihoods and affecting more than 1.5 million people across nine regions.

While localized flooding in parts of Mindanao is not uncommon during January, this year the situation has been compounded by back-to-back low pressure areas – within a span of two weeks – that have interacted with the tail-end of a cold front

The initial floods were as a result of heavy rains brought by the interaction of a low pressure area (LPA) that tracked Mindanao on 16 January and the tail-end of a cold front that affected southern parts of the country during the same period. The weather system brought heavy rainstorms over Palawan, Visayas, Zamboanga Peninsula and northern Mindanao. While the LPA eventually dissipated, the tail-end of a cold front continued to affect Visayas and Mindanao, bringing moderate-to-heavy rains across nine regions, including parts of southern Luzon. Cagayan de Oro City, in the province of Misamis Oriental, received at least one month’s worth of rain within 24 hours and as a result there was widespread flooding.

On 22 January, a second LPA entered the Philippines and again affected parts of Mindanao, bringing more rains with further flooding. The most impact was felt in CARAGA and Davao regions of Mindanao, especially the provinces of Agusan del Sur and Compostela Valley where massive flooding swept through several towns and caused significant damages. Without much reprieve, fresh heavy rains followed starting 27 January as a third LPA developed southeast of Mindanao and interacted with the tail-end of a cold front as it moved east before dissipating over Palawan. The new wave of rains compounded the situation, especially in CARAGA region.

According to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), the combined effects of the rains that have lashed starting mid-January resulted in at least nine deaths, injured 10 people, damaged homes and swept away livelihoods, mainly in CARAGA, Davao and Northern Mindanao regions. More than 320,000 households (1.5 million people) have been affected, with at least 1,300 houses damaged. The authorities pre-emptively evacuated over 17,000 households (85,000 people), with 53,200 people still remaining in evacuation centres or staying with host families. Parts of Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Compostela Valley, Davao Oriental, Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao provinces have been declared under the state of calamity. Initial estimates indicated that the cost of damage caused to agriculture alone is more than PHP 126 million (CHF 2.5 million). The numbers – including of people affected, houses damaged, and cost of damage – will likely increase as figures from provincial disaster risk reduction and management councils are collated.

Action by the authorities

The NDRRMC disseminated weather advisories, based on forecasts by the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), to regional DRMMCs urging them to continuously monitor the situation and undertake precautionary measures. Based on the advisories, local authorities undertook preemptive evacuation of evacuation of people from flood and landslide prone areas in order to minimize potential loss of human lives. The NDRRMC and Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) have also kept track of the humanitarian impact of the floods, with NDRRMC issuing Situation Report #11 on 26 January and Situation Report #2 on 31 January. The DSWD’s Disaster Response Operations Monitoring and Information Center (DROMIC) is also issuing regular updates, with the latest released on 3 February.

The authorities – at regional, provincial, municipal and barangay levels – have mobilized resources to provide immediate assistance to affected people, with parts of at least six provinces placed under the state of calamity, thereby allowing the authorities to release emergency funds. Priority has been put on evacuation, rescue and provision of immediate assistance, including food and non-food relief assistance. The Department of Health and Department of Agriculture have conducted rapid assessments on matters related to health and livelihoods respectively. NDRRMC continues to monitor the situation and update information.

In its latest forecast, issued at 17:00h local time on 3 February, PAGASA has indicated that a new weather system is developing off Mindanao and will likely strengthen to a tropical depression. As the context is evolving, PAGASA, NDRRMC and local government units are continuously monitoring the situation.