MANILA, Philippines (AP) — A powerful typhoon left at least 31 people dead, knocked down power and communications in entire provinces and wrought widespread destruction mostly in the central Philippines, officials said Saturday. A governor said her island has been “leveled to the ground.”
Typhoon Rai, which swept through the South China Sea on Friday night, ravaged southern and central provinces of Indonesia. Officials believe that it may have spared many lives.
Rai’s strongest winds whipped up sustained winds at 195km (121 mi) an hour. It also produced gusts reaching 270kph (168mph). The typhoon was the most severe to hit Southeast Asia archipelago. This area lies between the South China Sea (the Pacific Ocean) and the South China Sea. The typhoon slammed into the country’s southeastern coast Thursday but the extent of casualties and destruction remained unclear two days after with entire provinces still without power and cellphone connection.
The government’s main disaster-response agency said at least 31 people were reported killed, many after being hit by falling trees, but it added it was validating most of the deaths. One person was missing and at least three others were hurt.
Officials on Dinagat Islands, one of the first provinces to be lashed by the typhoon’s ferocious winds, remained cut off Saturday due to downed power and communication lines. But its governor, Arlene Bag-ao, managed to post a statement on the province’s website to say that the island of about 180,000 “has been leveled to the ground.” She pleaded for food, water, temporary shelters, fuel, hygiene kits and medical supplies. There have been no casualties in the capital, as other areas remain isolated.
“We may have survived, but we cannot do the same in the coming days because of our limited capacities as an island province,” Bag-ao said, adding some of Dinagat’s hospitals could not open due to damage. “Most of our commercial and cargo vessels … are now unsuitable for sea voyages, effectively cutting us off from the rest of the country.”
Vice Governor. Nilo Demerey managed to reach a nearby province and told DZMM radio network that at least six residents died and that “almost 95% of houses in Dinagat have no roof,” and even emergency shelters were destroyed.
“We’re currently doing repairs because even our evacuation centers were destroyed. There are no shelters, the churches, gymnasium, schools, public markets and even the capitol were all shattered,” Demerey said.
Pictures posted on Dinagat’s website show low-slung houses with roofs either blown off or damaged and surrounded by tin roof sheets and debris. A nearby island, Siargao (known as the Philippines’ surfing capital), was also hit hard by the storm.
The coast guard in central Bohol, where the storm directly affected, said that its rubber boat crew rescued people trapped under trees and roofs as the waters rose quickly. The coast guard released video showing staff pushing people off the roofs of houses that were nearly under water. Another villager was also assisted by the coast guard to get down from a high tree in order to avoid floodwater, while another orange-colored man waits patiently for his chance.
Rodrigo Duterte, president of the Republic of Rodrigo Duterte stated that he will look to raise money for assistance for the provinces using government contingency funds for the coronavirus pandemic. This weekend, he planned to travel to the region.
Each year, the Philippines is ravaged by approximately 20 storms or typhoons. The archipelago is located in the seismically active Pacific “Ring of Fire” region, making it one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries.