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Church joins calls for Mindanao flood probe

BUTUAN CITY (UCAN): Church leaders in Mindanao have joined calls for an investigation into what caused the devastating floods that displaced thousands of families and killed at least 16 people on February 12.
Landslides and floods triggered by heavy rain dumped by tropical depression Sanba (Basyang) displaced at least 37,370 individuals in the southern Philippine region of Caraga.
The scale and speed of the flooding took many by surprise.
Bishop Nereo Odchimar of Tandag, said the disaster caused “untold suffering to people” in his diocese who lost their homes and farms.
“Many residents are calling for an investigation into the reasons why the flood came so fast,” he said, noting that siltation ponds in some mines collapsed, causing a rush of floodwater. The government’s local social welfare office reported at least seven people killed and 18 others injured in the region.
In one incident, a child was killed after a settling pond in one mine overflowed and flooded villages downstream, burying hundreds of houses.
In areas of Agusan del Norte and Surigao del Norte provinces, mine waste drained into a river, causing connecting rivers to rise, which destroyed bridges and made roads impassable.
At least seven big mining companies operate in the provinces of Surigao del Sur and Surigao del Norte in the Caraga region, dubbed Mindanao’s mining capital.
Father Raymond Ambray of the environmental group Caraga Watch, said the loss of lives could have been minimised if the government had pursued its ban on mining in the area.
The lack of information and the overall silence of local government officials about the disaster is “deafening,” he said.
“Is it because officials of the most affected local government units are miners themselves or are supporting large scale miners?” the priest wondered.
Father Cambray said they await news from hinterland communities that were buried under mud.

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