During the early morning of Thursday, December 15, the Philippine Weather Bureau forecasted a low pressure from the Pacific Ocean. Late evening of the same day, Pag-asa announced that the low pressure has turned into a tropical storm giving its name “Sendong” and forecasted that it will land in Davao Oriental and passes through Agusan Sur, Bukidnon, Misamis provinces and Zamboanga del Norte. Pag-asa issued a signal number 1 for typhoon Sendong and warned of heavy rains on the affected provinces.
Typhoon Sendong brought heavy rains on its tracks starting late evening of Thursday, Dec. 15, and continued the whole day of Friday, Dec. 16. At 1:00 o’clock in the early morning of Saturday, Dec. 17, the heavy rains, strong winds, and rushing water from the mountains and higher grounds flooded both cities of Iligan and Cagayan de Oro. Water rose to more than 10 feet within minutes especially along the riverside, or coastal and low lying areas.
Flash floods in some places rose to as high as 30 feet. The flood carried with it big logs from the mountains. The logs hit houses, demolishing not only light material houses but concrete ones, too. Several villages were literally washed out, especially communities at the bank of the river. There were 9,193 houses totally destroyed, 18,873 houses partially damaged with a total of 28,030 houses destroyed and damaged. Thirty six thousand families were affected, more than 500 thousand individuals, 1,200 were accounted dead, 1,603 injured, and close to 800 still missing. In both Cagayan de Oro and Iligan cities 45,000 displaced persons are in evacuation centers, while 266,000 persons stays outside temporary shelters, with a total of 311,000 persons being assisted daily. The cities severely hit were Iligan and Cagayan de Oro. Debris from houses, buildings and other structures that had been destroyed was all sweep out to the sea, leaving huge areas devoid of all traces of habitation. It was also noted that for the first time in the history of Mindanao, an appeal was made urgently for casket and body bags as a priority in the relief needs. For the days that followed, in many places, there was no drinking water. Disease in evacuation centers also became a problem. Many were affected with Leptospirosis and some of them died.
We have a United Methodist presence in both cities. Twenty United Methodist families in Cagayan de Oro City were affected. Two houses were completely washed out. The homes of the others were submerged in the floods and damaged. At the height of the flood our members have to climb to their roof tops to avoid being drowned. In Iligan City 10 United Methodist homes were affected and one whole family drowned: father, mother 2 children, together with a relative and a helper.
There were other places too, that were affected but were not highlighted by the media. We have a record of reported deaths from the following places affected by typhoon Sendong:
Bukidnon province 77, in Negros Oriental and Dumaguete city 44 persons, Compostela Valley 5 persons, Lanao del Sur 4 persons and in Zamboanga del Norte 3 persons.
In Sta Cruz, (Misamis Oriental) where our church is beside the sea and the where Christmas Institute was being held, the activity was aborted because the sea water rose to hide tide. Logs floated, 4 dead human bodies were seen floating and there were cows and other animals, too, that drowned. In San Francisco (Agusan Sur) the Christmas Institute was also aborted because water rose up to the waist line as session was going on. In Vintar (Bukidnon) the Christmas Institute continued in spite of the flood that went in the church. The Visayas, particularly Dumaguete City, was also severely affected.
While those affected by Sendong were still recovering from shock and trauma, another calamity took place. An earthquake with an intensity of 6.9 on the Richter Scale on February 6 hit the Visayas, particularly the Islands of Negros and Cebu.
None of our members were casualties but our church buildings were affected. Altar cross fell, walls collapsed, floors cracked, ceiling fell. Hardest hit was the Church in Jimalalud.
A team from Asuncion Perez went to Jimalalud. They distributed relief goods. Funds from the Episcopal Areas of Bishop Juan and Bishop Arichea were given to help in the repairs of the damages.
We want to express our deep gratitude to those who showed their concern and love at the height of the disasters. Many individuals took initiative in this endeavour: District Superintendents, pastors, deaconesses, lay leaders, and bishops. Local churches and various organizations, religious and otherwise, both locally and from afar, got involved. The list would be long. They prayed. They visited the affected areas. They talked to the survivors. They organized disaster response committees. They gathered and distributed relief goods. They raised funds. These deeds are an expression of faith manifested in love. We thank God for these things. “We know that in all things God works for good with those who love him, those whom he has called according to his purpose.”