Thousands of evacuees return to Marawi

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Marawi City (CNN Philippines, October 29) — More than 4,000 evacuees return to see what's left of their homes in the city on Sunday, more than five months after the war.

The evacuees became emotional, as they've been longing to go home to their birthplace and start rebuilding their lives.

A convoy of almost 200 vehicles brought evacuees back to their houses in Barangay Basak Malutlut, five kilometers away from the main battle zone.

Upon checking their long-abandoned houses, they saw rooms in shambles, padlocks broken, and cabinets raided.

Valuable items like flat screen televisions, jewelry, watches, and even cash were also missing.

While they were disheartened over their loss, they feel grateful to be alive, given their harrowing experience. 

WATCH: Returning Maranaos decry looting

The first firefight between the government forces and Maute fighters broke out in Basak Malutlut on May 23, when joint police and military forces tried to capture Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, who rented an apartment there.

Residents said they were not aware Hapilon had been staying there, and they realized this only whey they saw him on television.

Hapilon and Maute leader Omar Maute were killed on October 16. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana announced the end to all combat operations against ISIS-inspired Maute terrorists on October 23, after the military killed the last remaining local and foreign terrorists in the city.

The local government of Marawi has provided water bladders as a temporary water source as only one out of eight pumping stations in Marawi is working, which can only serve five barangays.

Half of Marawi City also remains powerless. Local officials urged residents to register with the Lanao del Sur Electric Cooperative (LASURECO) to be reconnected to the grid.

The electric cooperative said the first month of their bill, which is November, would be free.

The local government will also provide P5,000 in cash aid for residents to survive in the coming week. There will also be rations of food supply from the social welfare department.

This week, other evacuees accredited by the following barangays will also return to their homes:

  • October 31, Tuesday: Poblacion Marawi and East Basak
  • November 1, Wednesday: Loks a Datu and Barrio Green
  • November 2, Thursday: Tampilong and Matampay
  • November 3, Friday: Barangay Saber
  • November 4, Saturday: Barangay Panggao Saduc

Aside from authentication of barangay leaders, military has also set-up a checkpoint in Marawi's border to make sure no Maute group member and sympathizer can slip into the city.