By Jeoffrey B. Maitem
MISAMIS ORIENTAL, the Philippines, Jan. 30 (Xinhua) -- For hundreds of thousands of residents in southern Philippines, hope for an auspicious new year was dampened by an unleashing flood that destroyed houses and farms and washed away their loved ones at the start of the year of ox.
Over the past weeks, as many as 35 people have been killed and over 300,000 others affected the worst flood in years in northwestern Mindanao region. The cost of damaged infrastructure has amounted to 207 million pesos (4.4 million U.S. dollars), according to the government released data.
The miseries were seen in the eyes and faces of children, mothers and old men who survived the catastrophe but with virtually nothing to live on.
Virginia Castro, 48, a mother of eight in Balingasag township, wished her family would have a smoother start of the new year.
"We've been living here for almost 24 years and this is the worst floods we experienced. My house was washed away by the big waves. We lost everything and our problem right now is how we can move on," Castro said.
"Temporarily, we are staying at our neighbor residence whose house was not destroyed in the floods," she added.
45-year old Teresita Garcia shared her worries.
Garcia said the meager amount of savings and property of her family were flushed out in the torrents. She even shed tears just watching her shattered house half immersed in the water.
"Today, as we lost everything, life for us is more difficult," she added.
Baicon Macaraya of the United Nation's World Food Program (UN-WFP) based in the southern Philippines said the flood was the worst in months and the UN organization has given over 600 tons of rice for more than 12,000 families displaced by the latest flash floods.
"I've seen the impact. Some of them are staying only at covered courts, which are vulnerable to other diseases. Some of them have no homes to return to," Macaraya said.
"It's not of the tons of food assistance but the lives of the people you reach. At least you are assured they will not worry of what they will eat," she added.
Stephen Anderson, UN-WFP country director, said in other part of Mindanao, like in Iligan City in Lanao del Norte there are still evacuees who will continue stay in the evacuation centers due to continuous heavy rains in the area.
In Lanao del Sur, however, the weather continued to be volatile, hence at least 7 municipalities that were greatly affected earlier this month remain flooded.
"I understand that during the weekend, the weather has improved and flood waters have subsided. Only those who are homeless remain in the evacuation centers, while others are starting to return to their places of origin," he added.
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has ordered the disaster relief agencies and social welfare departments to aid the displaced and demanded the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to ban illegal logging and undertake a massive reforestation of hinterland villages to prevent floods of such scale.