Cop missing while conducting search-and-rescue operations in flooded Bayawan City

By Mary Judaline F. Partlow

DUMAGUETE CITY, (PNA) – A Philippine National Police (PNP) non-commissioned officer has gone missing while participating in search-and-rescue operations Sunday afternoon after continuous and heavy rains for the past 24 hours inundated a large part of the Bayawan City proper in southern Negros Oriental.

Police Officer 1 Rodelyn Gonzaga was reported to have been separated from a lifeline around 2:30 p.m. while attempting to rescue some trapped residents in Sitio Punong, Barangay Villareal in Bayawan City, said Sr. Insp. Nenette Vibares, city police chief.

Gonzaga was hit by waves and strong current from flood waters that had spilled over from the Banga River that had overflowed, changed course and sealed off access to the Bayawan City proper.

The missing police officer was among the 72 members of the Special Counter Operations Unit Training (SCOUT) Class 40-2013 that were deployed Sunday to help in the rescue operations. All 72 are swimmers, with eight of them females and nurses at the same time, said Sr. Insp. Dexter Calacar, training manager of the PNP’s Regional Special Training Unit-7 in Central Visayas.

The 45-day SCOUT course started last August 30 at the Camp Carballo in Nagbagang, Sta. Catalina town in Negros Oriental, with a total of 112 trainees who are expected to graduate on the first week of November, Calacar said.

Only 72 of the entire class were deployed to participate in the rescue operations as they were swimmers, he added.

Meanwhile, several rescue groups have been deployed to Bayawan City to prioritize the rescue and retrieval of thousands of residents still trapped in their homes after an estimated 80 percent of the city proper was submerged in flood waters that rose as high as the knee up to the waist.

In some other areas, residents were reported to have gone up to the second floor of their homes, or climbed up the roofs of their houses or trees.

Among the rescue groups that are now in Bayawan City include the Negros Oriental Search and Rescue (NOSAR), the Bureau of Fire Protection, the Philippine Coast Guard Auxiliary, the San Jose Rescue Group, the Silliman University volunteer rescue group, the Amlan rescue group and Task Force SAGARR of Dumaguete City.

Also, the Philippine Army and the PNP deployed augmentation troops to assist in the rescue operations that continued until late Sunday as many people were still stranded inside their residences that are submerged in flood waters.

Rubber boats, life vests and other rescue equipment were also brought in, but access to the city proper was hampered by the change of course of the Banga River.