REPORTED deaths from typhoon Rai, locally named Odette, reached 378 while 60 were missing, the national disaster management agency reported on Sunday.

Out of the total deaths, now higher than the 375 recorded by the police a week ago, only 54 have been confirmed while the rest are still up for validation. Of those missing, 50 have yet to be confirmed.

Total reported injured stood at 742, based on the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council’s (NDRRMC) Dec. 26 update on the aftermath of Odette.

Almost four million people across six regions in the central and southern parts of the Philippines were affected by the strongest typhoon to hit the country this year, according to the NDRRMC, including about 550,000 who were displaced.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates that about 2.4 million survivors are in need of assistance.

OCHA, together with over 50 partner countries and organizations, are aiming to raise $107.2 million (P5.36 billion) to help a targeted population over the next six months.

“Provided enough funding is available and in line with the (Philippine) Government’s invitation to scale up collective efforts of in-country capacities, the Humanitarian Country Team plans to support life-saving assistance to at least 530,000 people. Most Activities benefit people in the worst affected areas of CARAGA and Region VIII (Eastern Visayas) from Dec. 2021 to June 2022,” said Humanitarian Coordinator Gustavo Gonzalez in a Dec. 24 report on needs and priorities.

The $107.2-million amount is based on the initial assessment of the government, Humanitarian Country Team, Joint Analysis for Disaster Exposure, World Food Programme, and OCHA.

Almost 480,000 houses were damaged by the typhoon’s strong winds, rain, and storm surges, including 148,695 that were totally destroyed, based on the NDRRMC report.

Typhoon Odette made nine landfalls on Dec. 16 and 17, with the first in Siargao in the southeastern part of the Philippines and the last in Palawan in the central-west. State weather agency PAGASA recorded winds of up to 175 kilometers per hour (km/h) and gustiness of up to 235 km/h.

Damage to public infrastructure, meanwhile, has climbed to P16.58 billion, mostly covering roads and bridges.

The Caraga Region — which includes the hard-hit areas of Siargao, Dinagat Islands, and Surigao City — had the highest infrastructure toll at P12.81 billion. Damage to other regions were: Central Visayas, P2.15 billion; Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan), P1.27 billion; Eastern Visayas, P173,400; and Northern Mindanao, P165,824,500.

Damage to the agricultural sector climbed to almost P4 billion from Friday’s P3.6-billion assessment.

Mr. Gonzalez said a “collective effort” is also necessary to plan and prepare for future climate hazards after the current emergency response operations are concluded.   

“I am mindful that we need to do more to align humanitarian and development action to ensure a sustainable future… In the coming months, scientists will debate the attribution of Typhoon Rai to the impact of climate change. For now, the unusual storm formation at the end of the year and its sheer intensity require our collective effort to address the ever-increasing vulnerability of the region to climate hazards.” 

President Rodrigo R. Duterte has ordered all government assets to be utilized for the relief and recovery operations.

“The military and the police must come into the picture… My plan is to — all assets of the government must be utilized,” the President said, based on a transcript released by the Palace, during a command conference with local government units (LGUs) and military officers in Cebu on Dec. 23.

“The money will be distributed by the military. Si General Año will supervise the… areas like here, highly urbanized, all direct… And from the military, it would go to the LGUs (in more remote areas),” Mr. Duterte said in mixed English and Filipino.

He was referring to retired Philippine Army general Eduardo M.  Año, currently secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government.

The President’s spokesperson said last week that the government is allocating at least P10 billion for the emergency response.

National police chief Dionardo B. Carlos on Sunday said they are ready to assist in the cash aid distribution, taking into consideration the difficulties in the ongoing relief operations.

“We noted challenges such as the absence of electric supply and the desire of people to get their aid first before anyone else. These may somehow delay the distribution because we want to make sure that there is peace and order,” Mr. Carlos said in a statement.

“The PNP (Philippine National Police) will always be ready to serve in any way we can. We are awaiting specific instructions and we will just wait for any mandate,” he said. — Marifi S. Jara