More than 200 dead after typhoon slams Philippines

The death toll in the Philippines has risen to 208, with 52 people still missing and 239 injured following the strongest typhoon to batter the Philippines this year, the national police said on Monday.

Several towns and villages remained out of reach due to downed communications, power outages and clogged roads, although massive clean-up and repair efforts are underway with the improved weather.

At its strongest, the typhoon packed sustained winds of 195 kilometers (121 miles) per hour and gusts of up to 270 kph (168 mph) before it blew out Friday into the South China Sea.

Many of those who died were hit by falling trees or walls, drowned in flash floods or were buried alive in landslides. A 57-year-old man was found dead hanging from a tree branch in Negros Occidental province and a woman was blown away by the wind and died in the same hard-hit region, the police said.

More than 700,000 people were lashed by the typhoon in central island provinces, including more than 400,000 who had to be moved to emergency shelters.

Police, soldiers and the coast guard rescued thousands of residents in the riverside town of Loboc situated in the most hard-hit Bohol province, where residents were trapped on roofs and trees in order to escape from rising floodwaters.

According to the officials, emergency crews are scrambling to restore electricity and cellphone service in at least 227 cities and towns. Three regional airports have also been damaged, they said.

Governor Arlene Bag-ao of Dinagat Islands, which was among the southeastern provinces first hit by the typhoon, said Rai’s ferocity in her island province of more than 130,000 was worse than that of Typhoon Haiyan, one of the most powerful and deadliest typhoons on record. Typhoon Haiyan had devastated the central Philippines in November 2013, but did not inflict any casualties in Dinagat.

“If it was like being in a washing machine before, this time there was like a huge monster that smashed itself everywhere, grabbed anything like trees and tin roofs and then hurled them everywhere,” said Bag-ao.

“The wind was swirling north to south to east and west repeatedly for six hours. Some tin roof sheets were blown away then were tossed back.”

According to Bag-ao, at least 14 villagers died and more than 100 others were injured by flying tin roofs, debris and glass shards and they were treated in makeshift surgery rooms in damaged hospitals in Dinagat. Many more would have died if thousands of residents had not been evacuated from high-risk villages before the typhoon arrived, she said.

Like several other typhoon-hit provinces, Dinagat remains without electricity and communication. Many residents in the province, where the roofs of most houses and buildings have been ripped off, need construction materials, food and water.

Bag-ao and other provincial officials travelled to nearby regions that had cellphone signals to seek aid and coordinate recovery efforts with the national government.

They have expressed concern that their provinces may run out of fuel, which was in high demand due to the use of temporary power generators, including those used for refrigerated warehouses where large amounts of coronavirus vaccine stocks were stored. Officials had delivered vaccine shipments to many provinces for an intensified immunization campaign, which was postponed last week due to the typhoon.

On Sunday, Pope Francis at the Vatican, expressed his closeness to the people of the Philippines, referring to the typhoon “that destroyed many homes.”

About 20 storms and typhoons annually batter the Philippines, which lies between the Pacific Ocean and the South China Sea. The Southeast Asian archipelago also lies along the seismically active Pacific “Ring of Fire” region, making it one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries.

By William Regal

Used to think I was a tad indecisive, but now I’m not quite sure.

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