WATCH | Marawi residents flee city

May 24, 2017 - 12:37 PM
Marawi residents evacuate by boat. (News5 photo courtesy of Jalaloden Motalib)

MARAWI CITY, Philippines — (UPDATE – 1:31 p.m.) The sound of gunfire had mostly subsided in Marawi City Wednesday morning, giving residents the opportunity that they had been seeking to emerge from their homes and flee the fighting between government forces and gunmen of the Maute terror group.

The violence in Marawi, which broke out Tuesday afternoon, has prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to declare the whole of Mindanao under martial law.

Two soldiers and a policeman were killed and 12 people wounded as the gunmen took over buildings and set fire to a school, a church and a jail.

The military and government gave few details about the clashes nor did they say if any rebels had been killed.

Vehicles jammed the highway from Marawi to Iligan City, their already slow pace compromised further by tight security at military checkpoints.

Soldiers stand guard as vehicles carry evacuees from Marawi City. (photo by Romeo Ranoco, Reuters)

Other residents had been walking for hours to escape.

Still others chose to flee in boats.

“The city is still under the control of the armed group. They are all over the main roads and two bridges leading to Marawi,” student Rabani Mautum told Reuters in nearby Pantar town, where some residents were leaving in overloaded trucks.

“I was in school when we heard gunfire … When we came out there were blood stains in the building but we did not see dead or wounded.”

Mohammad Nisam said they thought it best to leave before fighting resumed, adding that “many” gunmen remained in the city.

Residents of Marawi flee on foot with their belongings. (DSWD photo)

Akmad Ali said they had been pinned down by the fighting Tuesday and were unable to leave earlier. He said there had been fatalities “pero ‘di naming natingnan (we did not look at them).”

Classes are suspended and business has ground to a halt in Marawi as the military maintained a strong presence.

Nothing is known about possible casualties suffered by the extremists.

News5 was not allowed to enter the city center and was thus unable to ascertain the real situation there.

But authorities were still working to confirm reports that the extremists had disarmed the guards at the Marawi City Jail and freed some of the inmates. (with a report from Reuters)