THE NUMBER of reported deaths due to tropical storm Agaton, with international name Megi, has reached 224 as of April 21, up from 175 a day before, according to the national disaster management agency.  

Missing persons have also increased to 147 from 110 previously, more than a week after the first storm to hit the Philippines this year triggered landslides and flooding mostly in the Visayas, the central islands of the archipelago.    

The province of Leyte in Eastern Visayas had the most number of casualties at 201 deaths and more than 100 missing, based on the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Councils (NDRRMC) latest tally.   

Two massive landslides occurred in Baybay City and Abuyog town, both in Leyte.   

NDRRMC said more than two million people were affected by storm Agaton, which brought several days of moderate but incessant rains starting April 9.   

The council issued a call for volunteers on Thursday to help in preparing family food packs for distribution to those affected. Almost 176,000 people were still displaced, with more than half staying across 447 evacuation centers.   

We are in need of volunteers who will help in the repacking and other logistics activities for the ongoing Typhoon #AgatonPH operations,NDRRMC said in an announcement posted on its social media pages.   

Individuals or groups can help with the operations at the DWSD-National Resources center along Chapel Road in Pasay City.   

Meanwhile, agricultural damage from storm Agaton has climbed to P2.8 billion, according to the Department of Agriculture (DA).  

Damage and losses have been reported in the regions of Bicol, Western Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Zamboanga Peninsula, Davao, Soccsksargen and Caraga, affecting 64,525 farmers and fishers. 

Volume of production loss stood at 89,093 metric tons (MT) across 31,645 hectares of agricultural areas.  

Rice was the most affected crop with estimated volume loss at 73,484 MT valued at P1.3 billion.  

This was followed by fisheries at P782.1 million, high-value crops at P296.7 million, corn at P53.6 million, and livestock and poultry at P40.9 million. 

The DA said it will be providing P715.47 million of readily-available assistance to affected farmers and fisherfolk.   

This includes P500 million worth of Quick Response Fund for the rehabilitation of affected areas and P100 million under the Survival and Recovery Assistance Program of the Agricultural Credit Policy Council for Western Visayas.  

It will also allocate P80.16 million worth of rice seeds, P24.33 million worth of corn seeds, P10.85 million in assorted vegetables; and animal stocks, drugs and biologics for livestock and poultry.  

Available funds from Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation will also be provided to indemnify affected farmers.  

In infrastructure, partial cost of damage was estimated at P1.45 billion as of Wednesday, according to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), consisting mainly of roads and bridges.   

In Eastern Visayas alone, damage to national roads and bridges was estimated at P1.30 billion.  

Most of the affected roads have been fully cleared or reopened with limited access, except for three road sections in Leyte and Southern Leyte that are still closed.  

DPWH Secretary Roger G. Mercado said the remaining impassable roads severely affected by landslides are targeted for reopening before the end of April.Marifi S. Jara and Luisa Maria Jacinta C. Jocson