MANILA—President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday lamented the string of tragedies that hit parts of the country this holiday season, from two successive typhoons that claimed hundreds of lives in Visayas and Mindanao to a Davao City mall fire that left dozens dead.
“Napakalungkot sabihin . . . we will end 2017 with a bang of so many deaths, ranging from carelessness to accidents and the typhoons. There seems to be a sorrow prevailing in the country today,” Duterte said as he presided over a disaster briefing in Lanao del Norte.
“It was not a good Christmas day for all of us . . . From one sorrow to another ako.”
At least 240 people died after typhoon Vinta (international name Tembin) ripped through Mindanao and triggered landslides and flash floods.
Civil defense officials said some 13,000 Mindanao families — at least 52,000 people — remained at evacuation camps on Christmas day, many with few or no possessions left.
Prior to Vinta’s arrival, typhoon Urduja (international name Kai-tak) tore through Visayas and Mindanao, leaving at least 41 dead.
The president said he has ordered officials to fast-track efforts and work on normalizing conditions in affected areas.
“As soon as possible, we have to go back to normalcy para hindi masyadong maano ang mga tao,” Duterte said.
Duterte also sought the immediate rehabilitation of farms affected by the twin typhoons.
In Duterte’s home city of Davao, at least 38 people — 37 call center agents and a mall worker — died after a fire hit NCCC Mall over the weekend.
It was a busy Christmas break for the president as he had to assist his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, in consoling the relatives of those who died in the blaze.
Twenty people also died in a head-on collision involving a jeepney and a bus in Agoo, La Union on December 25.
Eight people died after a ferry capsized off Quezon province last week.