RAPU-RAPU, Albay– A forest fire which raged for five days almost engulfed the forested part of the island of Batan, of the two-island municipality of Rapu-rapu of Albay province.
The fire began on Friday last week but came to the knowledge of Albay public safety and civil defense offices three days later, just when it was about to engulf residential houses, including public school buildings.
Cause of the fire was suspected to be the kaingin system or the slash and burn practice of the locals. Unfortunately strong winds brought by the southwest monsoon or “habagat” fueled the conflagration.
Lt. Col. Luisito F. Angeles Jr., commander of the Philippine Air Force based here, said six pilots worked together since Sunday.
Two helicopters from the 505th PAF search and rescue group equipped with buckets were deployed in three separate sites with 14,000 inhabitants.
“The pilots dropped 45,000 liters of water but could not control the fire. We asked for cloud seeding but no plane was immediately available,” according to governor Joey Salceda.
On Monday night, the heavy rainfall brought by bad weather helped minimize the blaze. On Tuesday morning. PAF helicopters finished off the simmering fire with bumpy bucket operations.
Classes in affected areas were suspended in the barangays of Poblacion, Morocborocan, Mananao, Guadalupe and Buenavista. Temporary evacuation centers were designated in barangays of Batan, San Ramon, Bagaobawan, Dapdap and Bogtong as some 3,000 people were evacuated.
No estimate as to the damage wrought by the forest fire but early report says it cost the government some P5-million to mount the rescue and fire curtailment operations.
The municipal government of Rapu-rapu is based in the nearby island of Rapu-rapu. So obviously there is no established working system of communications between the islands even as the barangay captains of the affected areas were “expected” to report to their higher ups, in case of emergency. (from PNA report)