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‘3 dead, 17 injured’ in mock explosion at Surigao port

PP/Supt Froilan Caturla (center) keenly watches as a K9 dog sniffs 
through an improvised garbage receptacle searching for explosives.
By Eugenio “Jun” Lira, Jr.

SURIGAO CITY - Panic and cries for help broke loose as injured bodies littered inside the passenger terminal building (PTB) in this seaport seconds after an explosive device exploded on Wednesday morning, July 27, port authorities said.

Port Manager Mildred Padilla said the ‘terrifying scene’ accounted for 3 casualties, 17 injured persons and dozens of passengers and port users evacuated as a result of the mock explosion minutes after an abandoned bag was ‘found’ by a security guard inside the PTB and was reported to the Port Police Division.

“This bomb drill we have today is a scenario created with the help of different government offices to test the readiness and emergency response of these agencies vis-à-vis any possible terroristic attacks on our port which is considered one of the vital government installations that needs protection. This is the result of the recommendation of PP/Supt Froilan Caturla who labored to make this exercise possible,” Padilla said.

She singled out the PNP Region 13 Maritime Group, led by P/Supt Melvin Laguros, that conducted the Bomb Threat and Explosion Drill Seminar which preceded an hour before the “bombing” of the PTB.

Padilla said it started at around 10:30 a.m. when SG Freddie Romero, a roving guard, noticed an abandoned bag near the ticketing booth but when he checked about the ownership of the bag the latter failed to locate its owner as passengers or persons near the location deny ownership of the same and failed to notice who brought the said bag in the area.
PPA security guard Freddie Romero leads porters in evacuating a wounded victim while Engr. Jun Bayang (in white helmet) is shown busy directing the flow of evacuation.
“The guard then informed PP/Froilan Caturla about the unattended bag and they immediately secured the area together with the help of PP/Insp Dixon Gonzales, security commander Roger Montilla, some guards and porters. Caturla then called the assistance of the K9 unit of the Philippine Coast Guard so the bag could be checked by a K9 dog," the port manager disclosed.

PP/Supt Froilan Caturla, port police commander, said he then ordered the immediate evacuation of passengers and other persons from the vicinity when the K9 dog sat beside the abandoned bag after sniffing it for several seconds.

“Normally, when a K9 dog sniffs something and sits beside the object – it means that bag contains explosives. So, I immediately ordered the evacuation of people from the vicinity of the PTB and ticketing booth to the designated evacuation area just beside the PPA Administration Bldg. and then I called for assistance from the CDRRMC, PNP, BFP, ERS, City TMO and PCBSI,” Caturla revealed.

He said while they were busy in the evacuation, the abandoned bag suddenly exploded and a score of people were hit resulting to 3 casualties and 17 injured that were immediately attended to with the timely arrival of the City Rescue Team headed by Mario Gesta and BFP Response Unit led by SFO4 Albert Lerio.

Caturla said after the blast, a composite of the PCG K9 unit, Philippine Army and PNP Maritime EOD personnel conducted an immediate clearing operation at the PTB Shed and adjacent areas where they found another unattended bag which was transferred and later detonated by the team at a safe distance in the middle of the highway in front of the PTB.

After the clearing activity, the composite team recommended the return of the ‘evacuees’ to the PTB which then resumed normal operation amid positive responses from the public, Caturla said.

Atty. Roldan Calejesan, PPA-Surigao Legal Officer and designated information officer, said the port management had also commended other government officials and media personalities who helped in the successful staging and wide dissemination of the bomb drill. 

The list included LCDR Alberto Ferre of Phil. Coast Guard, P/Supt Noel Silvosa of City PNP, SPO1 Richard Charvet (bomb technician) of PNP Maritime Group, Atty. Manuel Coro and Annette Villaces of CDRRMC, Atty. Manuel Delani of City TMO, Jojo Ferol of DxRS, Alex Salvo of Joy-FM, Nestor Guballa of DxSJ-FM and Branch Manager Edgardo Tidalgo of PCBSI, a cargo-handling in Surigao port.

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