MARAWI CITY, Philippines – Thunderous bomb explosions, rapid gun fires and the roars of fighter planes and choppers marked the 31st day since terrorists from the so-called Maute group attacked this city.
Dark smokes billow in portions of Marawi after being hit by air assaults and the explosions from the ground as fierce gunbattles continue in the streets and villages in this war-torn city.
Thirty-one days have passed and residents continue to ask when the war will end.
As they grasp for some clear answers, the reality on the ground is grim – lines of abandoned houses, closed businesses and empty streets.
In the villages where the ground and air assaults continue, ruins and destruction are most that can be caught on site.
Almost every day, dark smokes billow in villages where armed confrontations are intense – and since that infamous day of May 23, death, displacement and destruction envelop the entirety of Marawi.
A National Interfaith Humanitarian Mission composed of partylist lawmakers and human rights advocates that was barred from entering Marawi last week monitored illnesses that struck the evacuees, the problems on sanitation and congestion.
In its report, the mission is seeing the possibility of a humanitarian crisis if no comprehensive interventions will be instituted by the government and other sectors.
As of June 15, a total of 37 civilians were already killed in Marawi, according to the data from the Humanitarian Emergency Action Response Team of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Reports also said of 19 deaths among the evacuees that occurred on various dates since the evacuation started on May 23.
The deaths in evacuation centers are due to various illnesses, some cases were pre-existing.
The Joint Task Force Marawi and the Provincial Crisis Management Committee said that as of June 21, Wednesday, 66 government troopers were already killed in action while 461 were wounded during the day-to-day fighting.
The JTF Marawi also accounted 268 deaths from the side of the Maute members while 271 of their high-powered firearms were also recovered by government troopers.
But the number of deaths on the civilian side might be higher, evacuees interviewed in the past weeks claimed, as some of their family members and friends are still nowhere to be found in the evacuation centers nor can be contacted through phones.
ARMM-HEART data added that as of June 15, around 696 civilians are believed to be stranded inside the war-stricken villages and communities of Marawi; 26 persons are still missing, and 5,431 were already rescued and evacuated.
On Wednesday, June 21, the crisis committee said 19 more individuals were rescued after being trapped for days – most of those rescued recently were women.
Aside from the missing and the trapped is the case of the hostages – individuals who were snatched by the Maute in the early days of the siege.
Among the captives is Fr. Chito Suganob, a Catholic priest.
Read related story: Hostage priest in Marawi still alive – military
The JFT Marawi said Fr. Chito and the other hostages are still alive based on the revelations and information provided by residents who were trapped for days and recently rescued.
Since the siege of Marawi took place, a total of 51, 651 families or 252,282 individuals were already displaced, the government data, particularly the ARMM said.
Of the total number, 3,687 families or 17,647 individuals are staying in 73 evacuation centers scattered in Iligan City (5) and in the provinces of Lanao del Sur (40) and Lanao del Norte (28).
More than 80 percent of the displaced families and individuals from Marawi – 47,677 families or 233,200 individuals are considered house-based or staying with their families and relatives in the various towns, cities, and provinces in Mindanao and other parts of the country.
Settling temporarily in evacuation centers means discomfort compared to the comfort of staying in their houses that they call home.
For the past 31 days, displaced families and individuals in evacuation centers experience that hardship of living in congested areas and sleeping in cemented floors covered only with thin mats.
The food items they receive are sometimes not enough and its nutritional values are not suited for daily intakes especially for the children, the pregnant women, and nursing mothers.
Sanitation is also a problem in most evacuation centers – there are cases where more than a hundred families only share a single toilet.
Read related story: Congestion, sanitation problems confront Marawi evacuees in Balo-i
Increasing number of evacuees affected by various illnesses is also a problem being attended to by authorities.
Cases of diarrhea are increasing in most evacuation centers, the Provincial Health Office of Lanao del Sur said 300 cases of diarrhea are already monitored since day one of the evacuation.
Read related story: 2 deaths due to diarrhea recorded in Lanao Sur evacuation centers
Health authorities in the area also denied earlier reports of a case of cholera and assured the public that they are working to address the increasing number of diarrhea cases.
ARMM-HEART said 4,003 displaced persons from Marawi were already provided by the government with medical services.
The crisis committee also reported on Thursday, June 22 that a total of 27,093 individuals or 5,814 families from Marawi were already served by the government. (davaotoday.com)