By JIM GOMEZ Associated Press
MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The death toll from the most powerful typhoon to hit the Philippines this year has risen to 375, with more than 50 others still missing and several central provinces struggling with communications and power outages. running and begging for food and water, officials said Monday.
At its strongest, Typhoon Rai blew sustained winds of 195 kilometers (121 miles) per hour with gusts of up to 270 km/h (168 mph) before blowing into the South China Sea on Friday.
At least 375 people were killed, 56 missing and 500 injured, according to the national police. The toll could rise further as several towns and villages remained out of reach due to interrupted communications and power outages, although massive cleanup and repair efforts are underway.
Many were killed by falling trees and collapsing walls, flash floods and landslides. A 57-year-old man was found dead hanging from a tree branch and a woman was blown away and died in Negros Occidental province, police said.
Governor Arlene Bag-ao of the Dinagat Islands, among the first southeastern provinces hit by the typhoon, said Rai’s ferocity on her island province of more than 130,000 people was worse than that of Typhoon Haiyan, the one of the strongest and deadliest typhoons ever recorded. devastated the central Philippines in November 2013 but caused no casualties in Dinagat.
“If it was like being in a washing machine before, this time there was like a huge monster smashing everywhere, grabbing anything like trees and tin roofs, then throwing them everywhere,” said Bag-ao said over the phone. “The wind swirled from north to south to east to west repeatedly for six hours. Some tin roof sheets were blown away and then blown back.
At least 14 villagers died and more than 100 others were injured by flying roofs, debris and shards of glass and were treated in makeshift surgery rooms in damaged hospitals in Dinagat, Bag-ao said. Many more would have died if thousands of residents had not been evacuated from high-risk villages.
Dinagat and several other typhoon-hit provinces were left without power and communications, and many residents needed building materials, food and water. Bag-ao and other provincial officials traveled to nearby areas that had cellphone signals to ask for help and coordinate recovery efforts with the national government.
More than 700,000 people were affected by the typhoon in the central island provinces, including more than 400,000 who had to be moved to emergency shelters. Thousands of residents have been rescued from flooded villages, including in the town of Loboc in the hard-hit province of Bohol, where residents were trapped on rooftops and in trees where they went to escape rising waters .
Coastguard vessels transported 29 American, British, Canadian, Swiss, Russian, Chinese and other tourists who were stranded on Siargao Island, a popular surfing destination that was devastated by the typhoon, officials said .
Emergency teams were working to restore power to 227 towns and villages, officials said. So far, power had only been restored to 21 areas. Mobile phone connections in more than 130 towns and villages were cut by the typhoon, but at least 106 had been reconnected as of Monday, officials said. Two local airports remained closed except for emergency flights, but most others have reopened, the civil aviation agency said.
Bag-ao and other officials feared their provinces would run out of fuel, which was in high demand due to the use of temporary generators, including those used for refrigerated warehouses holding large quantities of vaccine stocks. the coronavirus. Officials delivered vaccine shipments to many provinces for an intensive vaccination campaign, which was postponed last week due to the typhoon.
At the Vatican, Pope Francis on Sunday expressed his closeness to the Filipino people, referring to the typhoon “which destroyed many houses”.
Around 20 tropical storms and typhoons hit the Philippines each year, which lies between the Pacific Ocean and the South China Sea. It also sits along the seismically active Pacific “Ring of Fire” region, making it one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world.