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Sunday, June 11, 2017

Civilians trapped in Marawi strive for survival

MARAWI CITY - Civilians still trapped in Marawi’s war zone strive for survival as the battle to free the city of the remaining militants belonging to local terror groups rages on to its third week.
The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao's Humanitarian Emergency Action and Response Team (ARMM-HEART) has a seven-man team deployed in the city since Day 2 of the crisis to help in rescuing stranded civilians. The team brings with them years of training and experience in rescue and retrieval operation.
They’ve already managed to rescue more than 4,000 trapped individuals since May 24 in coordination with the region's Crisis Management Committee (CMC) in Cotabato City and the Provincial Management Committee of Lanao del Sur.
The rescue operations were mostly response to distress calls received and processed through the ARMM CMC emergency hotline.
The ARMM CMC reported that as of Thursday, June 8, around 1,379 civilians are still trapped in Marawi. These individuals are vulnerable to attacks from both the terror groups and government troops.
Among those who have been successfully rescued are Aminola Disonimba, 40, and 10 other civilians.
They were trapped at Marawi’s Padian business district, an area controlled by the militants. They managed to escape the peril of being trapped in the battle zone on Friday night. Aminola said they braved the heavy firefight, intermittent air strikes and the strong current of the Agus River to make it to the waiting rescuers.
His group crossed the treacherous Agus River by swimming from Padian to the Buadi Sacayo district.
“Natakot talaga kami dahil baka kami na ang mahulugan ng bomba,” Aminola said. “Naging panatag lang ako noong nakatawid na kami ng Agus.”
Aminola and his wife Delma, 48, were in Marawi for a vacation for the month of Ramadhan. The couple was staying at the house of Aminola’s brother in Padian.
Like most civilians in the city, Delma could not believe the havoc and chaos caused by the terror groups. “Hindi namin inaasahan na tatagal ng ganito ang gulo,” she said.
The clashes, which enters its 19th day on Sunday, have destroyed key places in the city, including its business district. Around 240,000 individuals have also been forced out of their homes. The evacuees are mostly staying at their relative’s houses, while some are in different evacuation centers.
Delma became anxious hearing the loud noises of gunfires and bombs. “Hindi talaga kami nakatulog doon, may pangamba kami na baka kami na ang tatamaan ng bomba,” she said.
Delma said they already ran out of food and had to rely on the rain for something to drink and fill their stomach. She realized that they had to make the escape, otherwise they might die of starvation.
They’re currently sheltered at the Lanao del Sur’s provincial capitol along with 2,465 other evacuees where they receive medical and relief aids from the ARMM and provincial government.
Aside from the CMC in Cotabato City, the ARMM has set up operation centers in Marawi and Iligan City and in the town of Malabang in Lanao del Sur to coordinate the region’s humanitarian response to the ongoing crisis. As of the latest data, all of the more than 200,000 evacuees receive relief packs from the regional government every three to four days. (Bureau of Public Information)
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