Dis­ease fears grow as 400,000 flee

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD -

MANILA, Philip­pines — Is­lamist mil­i­tants oc­cu­py­ing a south­ern Philip­pine city have forced nearly 400,000 peo­ple in the wider area to flee their homes, of­fi­cials said on Satur­day, while warn­ing of dis­ease out­breaks and psy­cho­log­i­cal trauma among refugees.

The city of Marawi, con­sid­ered the Mus­lim cap­i­tal of the largely Catholic Philip­pines, has been re­duced to a ghost town af­ter self-styled fol­low­ers of the Is­lamic State move­ment launched an as­sault on the city on May 23.

For more than a month, the govern­ment has de­ployed jet fight­ers, at­tack he­li­copters and ar­mored ve­hi­cles to crush the mil­i­tants who are mem­bers of the so-called Maute group.

The fight­ing has left more than 400 peo­ple dead, while the Maute fight­ers still con­trol parts of the city, us­ing snipers and im­pro­vised ex­plo­sive de­vices to slow the mil­i­tary’s ad­vance.

Liza Mazo, the re­gional civil de­fense di­rec­tor, said it was not just the city’s res­i­dents leav­ing the area but also peo­ple liv­ing in the sur­round­ing com­mu­ni­ties.

Out of 389,300 who have fled, more than 70,380 peo­ple have been housed in 79 govern­ment-run evac­u­a­tion cen­ters, while the rest have shel­tered with their rel­a­tives, ac­cord­ing to so­cial wel­fare depart­ment fig­ures.

Mazo said that re­lief of­fi­cials have strug­gled to deal with out­breaks of ill­ness at the evac­u­a­tion cen­ters as govern­ment forces con­tinue to launch airstrikes and ar­tillery bar­rages against the mil­i­tants.

“There are alarm­ing cases of skin dis­eases and gas­troen­teri­tis. We want to con­trol the out­break, not just in the evac­u­a­tion cen­ter but even the home-based (refugees),” she said.

“There are also cases of psy­cho­log­i­cal trauma from the fight­ing.”

Some 26 peo­ple who have fled Marawi have since died in hos­pi­tals from var­i­ous ail­ments, ac­cord­ing to the health depart­ment’s local spokesman Jun Gal­ban, but he de­clined to say whether their deaths were re­lated to the evac­u­a­tion.

Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte, who de­clared mar­tial law over the south­ern Philip­pines to deal with the cri­sis, vowed on Satur­day that govern­ment forces would crush the ex­trem­ists.

“We will not go out there (Marawi) un­til the last ter­ror­ist is ex­e­cuted,” he said in a speech to govern­ment work­ers.

At one point in his speech, to demon­strate his se­ri­ous­ness, he lifted his shirt to re­veal a hol­stered pis­tol.

But he con­ceded, “we are hav­ing a hard time”.

“We never re­al­ized the mag­ni­tude of their prepa­ra­tion for their ex­plo­sives. We got there, they were po­si­tioned (with) their snipers. We prac­ti­cally had to climb up­ward,” he said.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.