PNP expects more fatalities as Odette’s full horror begins to unfold
The death toll soared to 169 four days after Typhoon “Odette” barreled through Mindanao and Visayas, as efforts to deliver water and food to devastated islands ramped up.
A consolidated report sent to Philippine National Police chief Gen. Dionardo Carlos showed that Central Visayas had the most number of casualties with 129, followed by Western Visayas with 22, Caraga with 10, Northern Mindanao with seven and Zamboanga Peninsula with one.
The PNP report also said that 107 others were injured and 50 were missing.
The number of fatalities was likely to rise as disaster agencies assessed the full extent of the death and destruction from the storm across the vast archipelago.
Close to half a million people or about 181,500 families have fled their homes and beachfront resorts as Odette ravaged the southern and central regions of the country.
The storm knocked out communications and electricity in many areas, causing a delay in the reporting on the death toll and the damage caused by Odette, which was previously classified as a super typhoon.
An estimated 6 million people were still without power. Damage to agriculture stood at P127 million while infrastructure damage was initially placed at P213.9 million.
Arthur Yap, governor of the popular tourist destination Bohol, said on his official Facebook page that mayors on the devastated island had so far reported 72 deaths in their towns.
Ten people also died on the Dinagat Islands, provincial information officer Jeffrey Crisostomo said.
In Cebu province, the death toll reportedly stood at 21.
Local officials said at least 18 people died in Surigao del Norte. Of these, 12 came from Siargao Island, where the typhoon first made landfall Thursday.
The other deaths were from Surigao City and the municipalities of Claver, San Francisco and Tubod.
The provincial administrator said the death toll is expected to rise as reports from Siargao Island, where communication lines are still down, continue to come in.
Odette smashed into the country Thursday as a super typhoon packing wind speeds of 195 kilometers per hour.
Thousands of military, police, coast guard and fire personnel are being deployed to assist in search and rescue efforts in the worst-affected areas.
Coast guard and naval vessels carrying food, water and medical supplies are being dispatched, while heavy machinery – like backhoes and front-end loaders – are being sent to help clear roads blocked by fallen power poles and trees.
“It’s going to be a long, tough road for people to rebuild and get their lives back on track,” said Alberto Bocanegra, head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in the Philippines.
An aerial survey of damage to parts of Bohol – known for its beaches, rolling “Chocolate Hills,” and tiny tarsier primates – showed that people have suffered greatly, Yap said.
There has also been widespread destruction on Siargao, Dinagat and Mindanao islands, which bore the brunt of Odette when it slammed into the Philippines.
Aerial photos shared by the military showed severe damage in the Siargao town of General Luna, where many surfers and holidaymakers had flocked ahead of Christmas, with buildings stripped of roofs and debris littering the ground.
Tourists were being evacuated from the island on Sunday by plane and boat.
Dinagat Gov. Arlene Bag-ao has said the damage to the island’s landscape was “reminiscent if not worse” than that caused by Super Typhoon Yolanda in 2013.
Yolanda was the deadliest cyclone on record in the country, leaving more than 7,300 people dead or missing.
“I saw how Typhoon Odette tore the provincial capitol apart, piece by piece,” Dinagat PIO Crisostomo told radio station dzBB.
“Big tables as heavy as a man went flying during the onslaught of the storm,” he said.
In Surigao City, on the northern tip of Mindanao, shattered glass from smashed windows, roofing, power lines and other debris were scattered in the streets.
Tricycle driver Rey Jamile, 57, braved flooded streets and “flying” sheets of corrugated iron roofing to get his family to safety at a school evacuation center.
“The wind was very strong,” he said, adding that now that the storm was over he was struggling to find water and food.
Odette’s wind speeds eased to 150 kph as it barreled across the country, dumping torrential rain, uprooting trees and destroying wooden structures.
It emerged over the South China Sea on Saturday and headed towards Vietnam.
The National Electrification Administration (NEA) said about 6 million people or 1.2 million households were still without power due to the typhoon.
The Department of Energy (DOE) said it aimed to complete restoration in time for Christmas amid concerns over the possible impact on COVID-19 vaccines that need refrigeration.
“We are still in the process of consolidating all these things, but our primary target is to complete everything before Christmas,” said Electric Power Industry Management Bureau Director Mario Marasigan, who cited the importance of restoring power to areas where COVID-19 vaccines are stored.
“We need to identify the DOH (Department of Health) and LGU (local government units) facilities where they keep their vaccines,” he said, while keeping hospitals and health centers in operation.
President Rodrigo Duterte has directed the DOE to restore electricity to areas ravaged by typhoon Odette, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said.
Nograles said some areas, particularly Dinagat Islands, still do not have electricity.
Nograles said Duterte also ordered the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) to install very small aperture terminal (VSAT) equipment in Siargao as well as satellite phones to ensure coordination with the Office of the Civil Defense for calamity response.
He said Navy and the Coast Guard will send their boats and ships to augment the delivery of needed supplies, equipment and food in Surigao del Norte and Dinagat Islands.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines Eastern Mindanao Command is committed to send medical personnel through two Navy ships for Siargao and Dinagat Islands.
Also, the Department of Health will send medical supplies and frontline health workers to Dinagat Islands, Nograles added.
Nograles said Duterte designated Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Rolando Bautista to act as the crisis manager to ensure government response is coordinated in Surigao del Norte and Dinagat Islands.
The DSWD said it has provided P3.5 million worth of assistance to Caraga, Eastern and Western Visayas, and Mimaropa.
A department spokesperson, Irene Dumulao, said the DSWD has more than P900 million worth of available stockpiles and standby funds to aid those affected by the onslaught of typhoon Odette.
Typhoon Odette maintained its strength while moving over the West Philippine Sea.
The center of the typhoon was located 430 kilometers northwest of Pag-asa Island, Palawan, outside of the Philippine area of responsibility.
Packing maximum sustained winds of 195 km/h near the center, gustiness of up to 240 km/h and central pressure of 915 hPa, it was moving west northwestward at 15 km/h.
Odette hit the Philippines late in the typhoon season – most cyclones typically develop between July and October.
Scientists have long warned that typhoons are becoming more powerful and strengthening more rapidly as the world becomes warmer because of human-driven climate change.
The Philippines—ranked among the globe’s most vulnerable nations to the impacts of climate change—is hit by an average of 20 storms and typhoons every year, which typically wipe out harvests, homes and infrastructure in already impoverished areas. Alena Mae Flores and AFP