THE DEATH TOLL in the wake of tropical storm Urduja has reached 31 as of Monday afternoon, Dec. 18, according to an update by Presidential Spokesperson Harry L. Roque, Jr., right in the storm-hit island province of Biliran which President Rodrigo R. Duterte also visited.
Based on data by the Department of Interior and Local Government as provided in the course of Mr. Roque’s briefing, five people died in Leyte, one in Eastern Samar, two in Samar, and 23 in Biliran. The Eastern Visayas Region was hardest hit by supertyphoon Yolanda in 2013.
As of this writing, 49 persons were reported missing — two in Romblon in the Mimaropa Region, and three in Leyte, 11 in Eastern Samar, and 33 in Samar.
Mr. Roque said 62,309 families and 270,707 individuals were affected by the storm.
With the onslaught of Urduja, government agencies are closely monitoring the areas which has been greatly damaged, particularly the province of Biliran in Leyte.
Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana, also briefing the media in Biliran, said for his part: “The military will be here to assist you in whatever they can. There’s a ship coming from Cebu traveling to Naval town, may dala-dalang (bringing) relief goods (from the) DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development).”
Mr. Duterte, for his part, has asked the Department of Trade and Industry to monitor prices and also directed the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to finish repairs on two bridges that were damaged in the town of Naval, southwest of Biliran.
In Ormoc City, Leyte, the DPWH identified two roads damaged in the course of the typhoon: the Kinanga-Tungonan-Hotspring Road in Barangay Lim-ao, Kananga, and the Libungao-Matag-ob-Palompon Road in Barangay Candelaria.
In the meantime, motorists may opt to take Junction National-Barangay Monterbello-Aguiting-Lim-ao Road and Sto. Rosario-Villaba-Palompon Road as alternative routes, the department said in an advisory.
For his part, Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said in a statement that “prices of water and basic goods (have been) normalized and supply assured from Cebu….”
“Prince Grocery (in Biliran) will begin delivering bottled water (1 gal) plus other basic necessities (noodles, etc.) to Biliran from Cebu today. Another grocery store in Biliran will be contacted…to purchase bottled water delivered from Ormoc,” Mr. Lopez also said.
Mr. Duterte also directed the DILG to step up rescue operations for individuals who are still reported missing.
The DSWD has opened 608 evacuation centers which can accommodate 44,000 affected families. An estimated P230 million worth of emergency supplies and relief goods were also brought in.
“The mayors in the open forum expressed concern that it was not just Naval that suffered damage. The other municipalities suffered damage again and the President asked them to submit a list of projects they would need for their respective municipalities,” Mr. Roque said.
As of Monday, 11:00 a.m. the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) reported that Urduja had crossed Palawan and was expected to leave the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR) today, two days ahead of the earlier projection of when it will leave PAR. — Rosemarie A. Zamora