The Marawi crisis has displaced nearly 400,000 people, it was revealed today (Saturday, July 1), as officials warn of disease outbreaks and psychological trauma among refugees.
The city has been reduced to a ghost town after the local Maute terror group, which claims affiliation with the so-called Islamic State (IS) began a rampage through the city on May 23.
Since then, the government has deployed jet fighters, attack helicopters and armoured vehicles to crush the militants, failing to meet numerous deadlines for victory.
The fighting has left at least 400 people dead, while Maute terrorists continue to control parts of the city, using snipers and improvised explosive devices to slow the military’s advance.
It is believed 2,000 people are trapped in the city and that militants are also holding civilians as human shields.
Regional defence director Liza Mazo 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, some 70,380 people are now housed in 79 government-run evacuation centres, while the others have mainly found refuge with relatives, according to the social welfare department.
Ms Mazo said relief officials are struggling to deal with outbreaks of illness at the centres. “There are alarming cases of skin diseases and gastroenteritis,” she said.
“We want to control the outbreak, not just in the evacuation centre but even the home-based refugees.
“There are also cases of psychological trauma from the fighting,” she added.
Some 26 people who have fled the embattled city have since died from various ailments, according to health department spokesman Jun Galban. However, he declined to say whether their deaths were related to the evacuation.
President Duterte, who declared martial law across the whole of Mindanao in response to the crisis, vowed today that government forces would crush the extremists.
“We will not go out there until the last terrorist is executed,” he said in a speech at the 50th founding anniversary of Davao del Norte.
At one point in his speech, to demonstrate his seriousness, he lifted his shirt to reveal a holstered pistol, before admitting “we are having a hard time”.
“We never realised 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.