MANILA, Philippines - From less than a hundred the other day, the official death toll from super typhoon “Pablo” rose to 237 yesterday, with Compostela Valley registering the highest number of fatalities followed by Davao Oriental, both in Mindanao, officials of the regional and provincial disaster management councils reported.
Officials of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), whose death count stood at only 95 as of noon yesterday, explained they were still validating and consolidating numerous disaster reports submitted by government field units, including those coming from the military and the police.
The Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom), whose troops are currently conducting relief and retrieval operations in typhoon-ravaged areas, reported that 142 persons died from flashfloods and landslides that hit farming and mining communities in Compostela Valley, particularly the towns of Monkayo, New Bataan, Compostela, Montevista, Nabunturan and Pantukan.
“In the whole province of Compostela Valley the number of deaths has risen to 143. In New Bataan alone, 67 civilians and three of our soldiers died in the flashflood,” Lt. Col. Lyndon Paniza, Eastmincom spokesman, said, adding that 154 were injured while 58 others remained missing, including eight soldiers.
The Provincial Disaster Risk Management Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC) in Davao Oriental reported 81 dead either from flashfloods, landslides, or from trees that fell when Pablo made landfall in Baganga town before dawn Monday.
These fatalities came from the towns of Tarragona, one; Manay, one; Caraga, three; Baganga, 31; Cateel, 30 and Boston, 16.
The PDRRMC also reported that 21 people were still missing while 148 were injured.
Other fatalities were reported in the Caraga region with six; one in Northern Samar; Bukidnon, two; Misamis Oriental, one; Misamis Occidental, two, Siquijor, one, and Valencia in Bukidnon, one.
Compostela Valley Gov. Arturo Uy said yesterday they have already recovered 60 bodies in New Bataan alone. Some of the victims died in mudslides and flashfloods that engulfed a school and a village hall where people were taking shelter from the storm.
“We could not just confirm the number of fatalities from Comval and Davao Oriental because we are still validating and cross-checking all field reports that are coming in,” NDRRMC administrator and Office of Civil Defense (OCD) executive officer Benito Ramos said.
Ramos said he expects the number of fatalities to increase as there are still many typhoon-ravaged areas that have yet to be reached by soldiers and policemen involved in the search, rescue and retrieval operations.
Aside from the rising number of fatalities, Ramos said he also expects massive damage to agriculture and infrastructure in the two provinces, even as reports showed 75 percent of private and government infrastructure were either totally or partially destroyed.
As of yesterday, Ramos said the weather has greatly improved in Mindanao but the people in typhoon-hit communities are still reeling from the massive destruction.
“It’s already sunny out there but the people there are asking for food, clothing and shelter. These are three basic services they need. All were crying and asking for help,” Ramos said.
Most of the affected areas remained isolated due to power outages, lack of communications and damaged roads and bridges. Helicopters were ferrying troops involved in search and rescue operations.
Meanwhile, the national government, through the Department of Health (DOH), is sending body bags to the hard-hit areas. Cadavers were being processed for identification.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has been distributing relief goods to people sheltered in various government evacuation centers.
Paniza said a joint team of military, police and private groups was activated early yesterday morning to conduct search and rescue operations in Compostela Valley and in Davao Oriental.
Palawan, Mindoro still stormy
Stormy weather is seen to prevail over Palawan and Mindoro today as typhoon Pablo (international name Bopha) continues to move toward the West Philippine Sea, the state weather bureau said.
Rene Paciente, of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), said Pablo was forecast to leave the country today or tomorrow.
As of 5 p.m. yesterday, storm warning signal no. 3 remained hoisted over Northern Palawan and Calamian Group of Islands; signal no. 2 over the rest of Palawan and signal no. 1 over Occidental Mindoro.
As of 4 p.m., the eye of Pablo was spotted at 110 km northwest of Roxas, Northern Palawan with maximum sustained winds of 120 kilometers per hour (kph) near the center and gustiness of up to 150 kph. The storm was forecast to move west northwest at 15 kph.
“There is slim possibility that it will directly hit Metro Manila although the western section of the country, including Northern Luzon and Metro Manila, will experience rainshowers due to the tail end of a cold front and the northeast monsoon,” Paciente said.
“The regions of Cordillera and Cagayan Valley will have cloudy skies with light rains. Metro Manila and the rest of the country will be partly cloudy with brief rainshowers,” PAGASA said.
Paciente said good weather is expected in the Visayas and Mindanao today, as well as western Visayas, including Antique and Mindoro.
He said no other weather disturbance is likely to affect the country in the next few days.
Pablo is expected to be 510 km west of San Jose, Occidental Mindoro this afternoon; and 700 km west of Subic, Zambales by tomorrow afternoon.
Alert against possible flashfloods, landslides, big waves and storm surges remained in areas under public storm warning signals.
Operators of fishing boats and other sea craft were advised not to venture out to the seaboards of Luzon and Western Visayas.
State of calamity
The city council of Cagayan de Oro declared the city under a state of calamity in the wake of typhoon Pablo.
During Wednesday’s special session, legislators approved Resolution No. 11225-2012 seeking to declare the city under a state of calamity after the disaster risk reduction and management council estimated Pablo’s damage at around P18.65 million.
CDRRMC vice chair Armen Cuenca said the agriculture sector suffered the most damage, followed by infrastructure.
City administrator Wilma Rugay said the declaration of a state of calamity would enable the city government to use the P41-million calamity funds to help typhoon victims.
State of calamity has also been declared in Compostela Valley, Mati City, and in Surigao del Sur by Gov. Johnny Pimentel.
Compostela Valley Rep. Maria Carmen Zamora urged her constituents to remain strong amidst the trials.
Mati City Mayor Michelle Rabat said though they recorded no deaths, the city still suffered damage to agriculture and properties.
Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte sent teams and over 5,000 food packs for the people of Davao Oriental, along with the assistance from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
The city has not sent financial assistance to Davao Oriental since the province has yet to be placed under a state of calamity.
The Office of Civil Defense (OCD) in Caraga Region reported that over 14,000 families composed of 73,958 individuals from 140 barangays were displaced by Pablo.
Eight deaths were recorded in Surigao del Sur, including a 60-year-old woman hit by a tree that fell on her home.
Local weather forecaster Lolit Binalay said storm warning signals have been lifted all over Caraga.
Butuan City Mayor Ferdinand Magdamo Amante Jr. has ordered city hall employees to go back to work.
The City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office reported at least 477 families or 1,680 city residents have been affected by the typhoon.
Emmanuel Galarte, general manager of Agusan del Sur Electric Cooperative, said the storm destroyed about 300 electric posts. He said the town of Lapaz was severely damaged.
At least 275 families have been moved to various evacuation centers as flashfloods submerged villages in Zamboanga peninsula, said Chief Superintendent Napoleon Estilles, director of Police Regional Office 9.
Estilles said no casualties had been reported in Zamboanga del Sur and Zamboanga del Norte but the roads in Sitio Dap-Dap, Poblacion South, and Barangay San Antonio in Katipunan town were impassable due to mudslide, while the village of Barangay Ilaya in Dapitan City, all in Zamboanga del Norte, remain flooded.
In Negros Occidental, around 300 houses were damaged by the storm, according to the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office.
The National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP), the country’s power transmission service provider, has restored most of the damaged lines in the Visayas and Mindanao to normalize electricity supply following the typhoon.
As of noon yesterday, the NGCP reported that it has repaired 25 transmission facilities while 15 more were still under restoration.
Power has been restored in Northern Samar, Negros Oriental and Bohol, all in the Visayas.
For Mindanao, NGCP said 20 transmission lines were already repaired, restoring power in the CARAGA region, Davao del Norte, Zamboanga Sibugay, Zamboanga del Norte and Zamboanga del Sur. - Evelyn Macairan, Edith Regalado, Roel Pareño, Ben Serrano, John Unson, Danny Dangcalan, Jigger Jerusalem, Neil Jerome Morales, AP