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‘Odette’ cuts wide swathe of destruction in Visayas, Mindanao; 3 deaths reported

A man carries pails beside damaged homes due to Typhoon Rai in Talisay, Cebu province, central Philippines on Friday, Dec. 17, 2021. A strong typhoon engulfed villages in floods that trapped residents on roofs, toppled trees and knocked out power in southern and central island provinces, where more than 300,000 villagers had fled to safety before the onslaught, officials said. (AP Photo/Jay Labra)

SUPER typhoon Odette killed at least three people and left a large swathe of destruction in Visayas and Mindanao in rampage that trapped flooded residents on roofs, toppled trees and knocked out power and telecommunications signal, initial reports government reports showed on Friday. 

Disaster officials were validating reports of as many as 12 fatalities, and were assessing the extent of the damage and casualties wrought by one of the strongest typhoons to hit the country in recent years, but said efforts were hampered by widespread power outages, downed communications and roads clogged with fallen trees and debris. Witnesses described ferocious winds that ripped off roofs and forced down trees, while others experienced severe flooding. President Duterte, during a situation briefing on Friday with the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) on the effects of Odette in several parts of the country will be visiting this weekend the areas devastated by tropical storm Odette.  

“I am flying tomorrow (Saturday) to the area (Siargao); also I would hit maybe Leyte, Surigao and if there’s enough time, Bohol. Then day after I would try to visit Cebu and in the Western side of the islands—Bacolod, Iloilo,” Duterte said.   

This after NDRRMC Executive Director and Civil Defense Administrator undersecretary Ricardo B Jalad said they will conduct an ocular inspection of the impact of Odette in Siargao.   

Duterte said he wants to visit the typhoon-hit areas to check on the casualties caused by Odette.   

“I am not so much worried about damage to structures, infrastructure of the government. What I am afraid of is that many people may have died [from the effects of Odette]. I am eager as you to go there and see for myself,” Duterte said.   

Jalad reported that Odette hit regions 4-B, 6,7,8,10,11, and Caraga. 

Citing their initial reports, he said they were able to register 12 fatalities and 7 missing persons in these areas.  

Officials were assessing the extent of the damage and casualties wrought by one of the strongest typhoons to hit the country in recent years, but said efforts were hampered by widespread power outages, downed communications and roads clogged with fallen trees and debris. Witnesses described ferocious winds that ripped off roofs and forced down trees, while others experienced severe flooding.

“I have never experienced such ferocity of the wind in my life and we were not even directly hit,” Mayor Jerry Treñas of Iloilo City told The Associated Press by telephone, adding that at least one resident was killed when she was hit by a cluster of bamboo blown down by the storm.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) though a consolidated report by its command center said the fatalities were recorded in Northern Mindanao, which also reported three injured people. Two others remained missing in Western Visayas.

Undersecretary Casiano Monilla, deputy administrator of the Office of Civil Defense (OCD), and the agency’s operations center, said most of the provinces in Eastern, Western and Central Visayas and in Caraga were experiencing power interruptions as early as Thursday.

Some of the provinces, including Northern Mindanao were also without telecommunications signals, forcing the OCD to use satellite phones in communicating with the battered provinces.

Based on the consolidated report of the PNP command center as shared by the national headquarters’ public information office, at least 154 areas in Regions 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 were without electricity.

At least 492 areas in Regions 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12 and 13 were also without mobile phone signal.

The PNP said at least 152 areas in Regions 6, 7, 8, 10 and 13 were also flooded as of Thursday morning along with 37 road sections in Regions 6, 10 and 13 were also flooded. 

Among the provinces that were experiencing power supply and mobile phone signal outages were Samar, Leyte, Southern Leyte, Biliran, Cebu, Bohol, Negros Oriental, Bukidnon, Dinagat, Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur and Agusan provinces. 

Monilla said Odette’s strong winds, which prompted weather officials to hoist signal number 4 in some of the affected areas, confined local officials and disaster response personnel inside their offices and homes on Thursday night, venturing out for response operations only on Friday.

However, search and rescue personnel from agencies, including the PNP and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) have been assisting in the rescue and preemptive evacuation efforts of villagers in flooded and threatened areas the whole day on Thursday due to strong rains spawned by Odette even before it could make a landfall. 

Maronilla and the OCD said Odette made a landfall in Siargao Island on Thursday, and as of Friday morning, it was already over Sulu and moving westward toward Palawan. The super typhoon has made a total of eight landfalls as of this writing. 

The PNP command center said at least 50,219 families or 198,417 individuals were evacuated due to Odette and were housed in 7,928 government-run shelters in the affected regions and provinces. 

The PNP mobilized more than 13,000 personnel, both for actual operations and as standby force, for Odette.

It said the super typhoon also forced the cancellation of 53 flights, stranding 1,083 passengers in airports.

The PCG, on the other hand, said a total of 6,778 passengers, drivers, and cargo helpers were stranded in various seaports along with 3,221 rolling cargoes, 86 vessels and four motor bancas.

Another 275 vessels and 134 motor bancas have taken shelter, it added. 

Military spokesman Col. Ramon Zagala said their disaster response operations are also ongoing in the affected areas in coordination with the National Risk Reduction and Management Council.

“As the lead agency of the Search, Rescue, and Retrieval Cluster, we have mobilized units from our regional commands to the battalion level to ensure the widest coverage possible. Air and naval assets are also on call and ready for deployment to support the national and local disaster risk reduction and management councils and other response clusters,” Zagala said.

PRC deployment

Philippine Red Cross (PRC) Chairman and CEO Sen. Richard Gordon mobilized PRC staff and volunteers nationwide to provide immediate assistance following the onslaught of Odette on Thursday.

Gordon instructed PRC’s local chapters to prepare payloaders to clear impassable roads due to fallen trees and debris.

Relief items such as sleeping kits, hygiene kits, tarpaulins, jerry cans, and shelter tool kits were also prepared to aid the most vulnerable.

Kasama ang local chapters, ay patuloy kaming tutulong [Together with the local chapters, we will continue to help] to alleviate human suffering and uplift the dignity of the people,” Gordon said and reminded people to be cautious as well due to the threat of Covid-19.

Gordon also reiterated the importance of practicing safety protocols in the evacuation areas to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

PRC continues to provide ready-to-eat meals to affected individuals in the evacuation centers.

To date, PRC provided 12,952 hot meals and targets to feed more affected individuals.

PRC has a total of 28 food trucks nationwide, ready to be deployed in situations like disaster, calamities, and conflict.

Gordon also plans to procure additional food trucks to hasten relief operations.

Smart response

PLDT wireless communication Smart Communications Inc. (Smart) on Friday said it is the first to respond to typhoon-hit residents in Barangay Mabua in Tandag City, Surigao del Sur. Smart, together with local partners BizTalk and F&H Marketing, deployed an emergency generator set, which powered the covered court-turned evacuation center, where around 74 families sought shelter. 

Smart also activated its Libreng Tawag and Charging stations, helping affected residents connect with their loved ones in the wake of Odette (international codename Rai). 

Smart had also begun sending emergency load assistance to affected customers in Dinagat Islands, Surigao del Sur and del Norte, Bohol and Southern Leyte. The typhoon made its first landfall in Siargao Island on Thursday afternoon, bringing torrential rains and destructive winds. 

“All these efforts to provide immediate response through network resilience, continuous availability of communication services, and relief assistance to communities affected by disasters are part of PLDT and Smart’s #SafeandSmart Philippines program,” said Cathy Yap-Yang, first vice president and group Head, Corporate Communications for PLDT and Smart. 

Globe service update

Globe telco has announced that due to strong winds and torrential rains brought by Supertyphoon Odette, Globe’s data and mobile services have been affected in select areas in Visayas and Mindanao.

Outages were caused by multiple fiber cuts and the lack of commercial power. Given this, customers in affected areas may experience difficulty in using our GCash Buy Load, AMAX, Share-a-Load, Promo registration and Emergency Load Services at the moment.

Meanwhile, Globe said its LTE@Home Postpaid, Broadband Wireline services and GOMO services are up and available.

  At the moment, Globe said its  technical teams have started restoration efforts in areas where it is safe to do so. With reports from AP, Claudeth Mocon-Ciriaco and Samuel Medenilla.

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