THE DEATH toll from landslides and devastating floods in the central Philippines triggered by a tropical depression climbed to 85, officials said on Wednesday, and 20 people were missing as rescuers slowly reached cut-off communities. The casualties, including young children, were mostly killed when their homes collapsed in landslides after days of heavy rain in several provinces in the central Philippines, said Ricardo B. Jalad, executive director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC). “If we don’t recover the missing or we recover them dead, that is 105 deaths, which we hope not,” Mr. Jalad said. The tropical depression named Usman, which weakened into a low pressure system before leaving the Philippines on Sunday, brought heavy rain that triggered landslides and flooding in the Bicol and Eastern Visayas regions.
While search and retrieval operations are still ongoing, relief services are continuing for the 6,637 families composed of 24,894 individuals who are in 170 evacuation centers. NDRRMC said another 12,132 affected families are outside the evacuation centers. NDRRMC said more than P4 million worth of assistance have been provided by the Department of Social Welfare and Development, local government units, and non-government organizations.
The province of Oriental Mindoro has also declared a state of calamity, following Albay, Sorsogon, and the town of Bulan in Sorsogon. Such declaration gives local officials access to emergency funds.
Bicol, with a population of 5.8 million, was the hardest hit, with 68 killed in intense rains and landslides. Damage to agriculture in Bicol, which produces rice and corn, was estimated at P342 million. Rescuers, including the police and military, used heavy-lifting equipment to clear roads leading to landslide sites and entered flooded communities using rubber boats. “The sun is already out, with occasional light rains. We hope floods will subside,” Ronna Monzon, a member of the operations personnel at the disaster agency in Bicol, told Reuters. Damage have been identified in 95 road sections and three bridges, with 57 roads and one bridge already passable as of Wednesday. Of the 104 areas that experienced power interruption in the regions of CALABARZON (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon), MIMAROPA (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan), Bicol, and Eastern Visayas, supply has so far been restored in 55 cities and municipalities. In terms of houses, 41 were reported totally damaged and 28 partially destroyed. Majority of the totally damaged homes were in Northern Samar at 31. About 20 tropical cyclones hit the Philippines every year, with destroyed crops and infrastructure taking a toll on human lives and weighing down one of the fastest growing economies in Asia. — Reuters and Marifi S. Jara