Government: Little hope in finding survivors in worst-hit areas
The death toll from Tropical Storm “Paeng” has jumped to 101, the national disaster agency said Monday, with little hope of finding survivors in the worst-hit areas.
Out of the total reported deaths, 73 have been confirmed while 28 remain for validation, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said last night.
Just over half of the fatalities were from a series of flash floods and landslides unleashed by the storm, which destroyed villages in Mindanao on Friday.
“We have shifted our operation from search and rescue to retrieval because the chances of survival after two days are almost nil,” said Naguib Sinarimbo, civil defense chief of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
The number of fatalities is likely to rise, with the national disaster agency recording 63 people still missing and scores of others injured.
The Philippine Coast Guard posted pictures on Facebook showing its personnel in the devastated Kusiong village, in Maguindanao del Norte province of Mindanao, wading through thick, thigh-high mud and water, and using long pieces of timber in the search for more bodies.
Kusiong was buried by a massive landslide, which created a huge mound of debris, just below several picturesque mountain peaks.
Meanwhile, survivors faced the heartbreaking task of cleaning up their sodden homes.
Residents shoveled mud from their houses and shops after piling their furniture and other belongings in the streets of Noveleta, Cavite.
“In my entire life living here, it’s the first time we experienced this kind of flooding,” said Joselito Ilano, 55, whose house was flooded by waist-high water.
“I am used to flooding here but this is just the worst, I was caught by surprise.”
Perfidia Seguendia, 71, and her family lost all their belongings except the clothes they were wearing when they fled to their neighbor’s two-story house.
“Everything was flooded—our fridge, washing machine, motorcycle, TV, everything,” Seguendia said.
“All we managed to do was to cry because we can’t really do anything about it. We weren’t able to save anything, just our lives.”
More rain on the way
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. began touring some of the hard-hit areas on Monday, including Noveleta, as aid agencies rushed food packs, drinking water, and other relief to victims.
Marcos said preemptive evacuations in Noveleta had saved lives.
“While the calamity was huge, the number of casualties was not that high, although there’s a lot of damage to infrastructure,” he said.
Nalgae inundated villages, destroyed crops, and knocked out power in many regions as it swept across the country.
It struck on an extended weekend for All Saints’ Day, which is on Tuesday when millions of Filipinos travel to visit the graves of loved ones.
Scientists have warned that deadly and destructive storms are becoming more powerful as the world gets warmer because of climate change.
The state weather forecaster warned that another tropical storm was heading towards the Philippines even as Paeng moved across the South China Sea.
Starting Wednesday, the new weather system could bring more heavy rain and misery to southern and central regions badly affected by Paeng.
Landslides and flash floods originating from largely deforested mountainsides have been among the deadliest hazards posed by storms in recent years.
Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. on Monday brushed off claims that the national government had neglected Mindanao, particularly the BARMM, during the onslaught of Severe Tropical Storm Paeng.
“No. That’s not true. We have to understand the structure of government, we have a structure,” Abalos said in Filipino during a radio interview.
The BARMM has its own government structure, which has its own funding and agencies that are independent of the national government.
Abalos said the department is also closely working with BARMM regarding the status of the search, rescue, and retrieval operations and the management of the dead and the missing.
“Yesterday we asked them what they need, and the person from BARRM said, they don’t need anything for now. They would exhaust all their resources first after which they will ask for help if the need arises,” the Interior Secretary said.
He also pointed out that relief packs and 30 desalination machines were sent even if BARMM officials have yet to seek assistance from the national government.
Abalos said the DILG is also working with concerned national government agencies to respond to affected families and mitigate the loss of lives and damage to property.
“Further, the department is closely coordinating with the Ministry of the Interior and Local Government of the BARMM which is now under a state of calamity to help them access their calamity funds to provide assistance to the affected families,” he added.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) announced on Sunday that it has submitted a resolution recommending a declaration of a national state of calamity, which would trigger a price freeze and will allow the release of emergency funds.
The declaration will allow access to calamity response funds and will implement a price freeze on basic goods.
Under the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act, the declaration of a state of calamity imposes price caps on basic necessities and prime commodities and requires agencies to monitor and stop overpricing, profiteering, and hoarding of food, medicines, and fuel.
2.1 million affected
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) said about 2.1 million people or 560,000 families were affected by the storm.
DSWD Undersecretary Edu Punay said 297,341 people were sheltering in 3,208 evacuation centers across 17 regions.
“We have distributed P48.1 million of food and non-food items so far and the distribution is still ongoing,” Punay said during a televised briefing.
The DSWD has called for volunteers in repacking aid as well as donations for Paeng-affected areas.
Meanwhile, the Department of Agriculture said damage to agriculture caused by Paeng reached P1.33 billion as of 3 p.m. Monday, Oct. 31.
The latest bulletin covered production losses of 66,693 metric tons (MT) and damage to 64,607 hectares of agricultural areas in the Cordillera Administrative Region, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Mimaropa, the Bicol Region, Western Visayas, the Zamboanga Peninsula, and Soccsksargen.
The storm affected 53,849 farmers and fishers.
Most of the damage was recorded in rice with a total value loss of P1.23 billion.
Losses in high-value crops were recorded at P60 million, followed by fisheries at P16 million, corn at P5.59 million, and livestock and poultry at P1.92 million.
Damage to agricultural infrastructure was estimated at P20.6 million, covering a Regional Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory, a Regional Fruit Nursery, and an Agricultural Research and Experiment Station.
At least 38 domestic flights were canceled at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Monday because of Paeng.
Cebu Pacific (CEB) canceled 22 flights to and from Bacolod, Dumaguete, Caticlan, Tagbilaran, Puerto Princesa, Cagayan, Davao, and Cebu.
AirAsia Philippines suspended 16 flights, including those going to and from Cebu, Iloilo, Kalibo, Puerto Princesa, Bacolod, and Tagbilaran.
CEB recommended that customers check the status of their flight on its website before going to the airport.
“CEB will do its best to inform guests ahead of time if flights are canceled. If these are done on-the-spot, our ground staff are on standby to assist affected guests,” the company said.
Flight operations in NAIA returned to normal after the Manila International Airport Authority closed its runway facilities over the weekend due to the gustiness of the wind hovering around the aerodrome which posed risks to flight safety.
A total of 295 flights out of the 618 scheduled flights for Oct. 29 were canceled affecting a total of 43,151 passengers as a result.
The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines extended its assistance to stranded passengers due to flight cancellations.
CAAP personnel in Masbate, Tacloban, Laguindingan, and Zamboanga airports provided aid kits to stranded passengers and allowed them to take shelter in the airport terminal during the typhoon and while waiting for their flights.
The Department of Energy said Monday that two out of three power plants affected by Paeng were restored and back online. With Joel E. Zurbano and Alena Mae Flores