FIRST TIME. A resident of Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao del Sur looks at his valuables after flash floods spawned by an intertropical convergence zone hit the town center on Monday night (Sept. 18, 2023). The overflowing waters are accompanied by thick mud and forest debris, the first time that flooding hit the commercial district. (Photo courtesy of Shariff Aguak MDRRO; Lailanie Kindo, contributor)

COTABATO CITY – At least 31,000 families have been affected by flash floods in the provinces of Maguindanao del Sur and Lanao del Sur on Monday and Tuesday, officials said.

In Maguindanao del Sur, flooding hits 79 villages in 10 towns with 30,000 affected families, while overflows also submerged two coastal towns of Lanao del Sur, displacing more than a thousand families.

Moderate to heavy downpours spawned by an intertropical convergence zone severely impacted the two provinces, triggering flash floods even in upland communities.

Ameer Jehad Ambolodto, Maguindanao del Sur’s head of the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office, said it was the first time that upland towns were submerged.

“The towns of Shariff Aguak and Datu Hoffer are not perennial flood areas that is why people were caught unaware of the floods,” Ambolodto said in a radio interview. “Worse, thick mud accompanied the flash floods.”

The flooded towns included Pagalungan, Datu Hoffer, Shariff Aguak, Datu Montawal, Datu Anggal Midtimbang, Pandag, Talayan, Guindulungan, Datu Saudi Ampatuan and Datu Unsay.

Ambolodto said no casualty was reported.

Diane Ali, a businesswoman in Barangay Poblacion, Shariff Aguak, noted that "in the past, our town has not experienced flash floods despite heavy downpours, only now."

Following the incident, Ambolodto appealed to local government units for the immediate activation of Barangay Response Units for immediate deployment should similar emergencies occur.

In Lanao del Sur’s Balabagan and Malabang towns, flash floods also submerged the towns' commercial districts and residential areas, according to local disaster management officials.

In Malabang alone, Edward Ryan, town tourism officer, said more than 1,000 families have been affected.

The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao’s Rapid Emergency Action on Disaster Incidence had sent emergency relief assistance to the affected towns. (PNA)