Typhoon deaths in Philippines top 200; mayors plead for food

Official says number of deaths likely to increase considerably



Rescuers assist residents over floodwaters caused by Typhoon Rai as they are evacuated to higher ground in Cagayan de Oro City, southern Philippines. — AP
Rescuers assist residents over floodwaters caused by Typhoon Rai as they are evacuated to higher ground in Cagayan de Oro City, southern Philippines. — AP

By Reuters, AP

Published: Sun 19 Dec 2021, 9:13 PM

Last updated: Mon 20 Dec 2021, 6:58 AM

The death toll in the Philippines caused by Typhoon Rai has risen to 208, after the storm carved a trail of destruction in central and southern provinces late last week, the national police spokesperson said on Monday.

There were 52 people still missing, according to police data, as relief efforts continued following one of the deadliest typhoons to have struck the Southeast Asian country.

The police have been mobilised for relief operations and to ensure order in calamity stricken areas, national police spokesperson Roderick Alba said. The number of casualties cited by police was far higher than the 58 deaths recorded by the national disaster agency up to now. The agency said it was still validating reports from affected regions.

More than half of the deaths reported by police were fatalities in the central Visayas region, which includes Bohol province, home to some of the country's most-popular tourist destinations, including dive spots.

On Sunday, Bohol Governor Arthur Yap reported 74 deaths in his province, citing partial reports that he said had been verified by both the health department and local government officials.

Relief operations have been accelerating but remain hampered by damage caused to communication and power lines, which have yet to be restored in many devastated areas.

Rai had displaced nearly 490,000 people in the Philippines before it moved toward the South China Sea over the weekend, also leaving huge destruction in the provinces of Cebu, Leyte, and Surigao del Norte, including the popular Siargao surfing destination, and Dinagat Islands.

President Rodrigo Duterte has committed to release around 2 billion pesos ($40 million) in funds to typhoon-hit provinces to help in recovery efforts

In statements posted on Facebook, Yap ordered mayors in his province of more than 1.2 million people to invoke their emergency powers to secure food packs for large numbers of people along with drinking water. Both have been urgently sought in several hard-hit towns.

After joining a military aerial survey of typhoon-ravaged towns, Yap said “it is very clear that the damage sustained by Bohol is great and all-encompassing".

He said the initial inspection did not cover four towns where the typhoon blew in as it rampaged through central island provinces on Thursday and Friday. The government said about 780,000 people were affected, including more than 300,000 residents who had to evacuate their homes.

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“The moment I was born into this world, I told my mother, ‘Let’s not stay here because this place is really prone to typhoons,’” Duterte told officials.

At its strongest, the typhoon packed sustained winds of 195 kilometres per hour and gusts of up to 270kmph, making it one of the most powerful in recent years to hit the disaster-prone archipelago, which lies between the Pacific Ocean and the South China Sea.

Floodwaters rose rapidly in Bohol’s riverside town of Loboc, where residents were trapped on their roofs and in trees. They were rescued by the coast guard the following day. On Dinagat Islands, an official said the roofs of nearly all the houses, including emergency shelters, were either damaged or blown away entirely.

At least 227 cities and towns lost electricity, which has since been restored in only 21 areas, officials said, adding that three regional airports were damaged, including two that remain closed.

The deaths and widespread damage left by the typhoon ahead of Christmas in the largely Roman Catholic nation brought back memories of the catastrophe inflicted by another typhoon, Haiyan, one of the most powerful on record. It hit many of the central provinces that were pummelled last week, leaving more than 6,300 people dead in November 2013.

At the Vatican, Pope Francis expressed his closeness on Sunday to the people of the Philippines, referencing the typhoon “that destroyed many homes”.

About 20 storms and typhoons batter the Philippines each year. The archipelago also lies along the seismically active Pacific “Ring of Fire” region, making it one of the countries most susceptible to natural calamities.


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