Flooding caused by heavy rains brought about by typhoon Ruby in Borongan, Samar. Photo by Vincent Go for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA - At least 21 people were reported dead, many of them drowned as flood waters rose in Borongan, the main town in Eastern Samar, where tropical storm Ruby (international codename Hagupit) made first landfall, the Philippine National Red Cross said on Monday.
The Philippines had evacuated more than a million people as the powerful typhoon approached the country from the Pacific, fearing a repeat of a super storm last year that left more than 7,000 dead or missing.
"We have confirmed reports that 21 people died in Eastern Samar, 16 of them in Borongan," said Gwendolyn Pang, secretary-general of the Philippine National Red Cross.
PNRC Chairman Richard Gordon confirmed at least 16 of the victims died of drowning due to a flash flood in two barangays. He said Red Cross are set to comb the area to check on the fatalities.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council in Manila confirmed only two dead and three injured. Two others were reported killed outside Samar, the third largest island in the Philippines, since Hagupit hit on Saturday night.
A year after a Category 5 super typhoon travelling roughly the same path left more than 7,000 people dead or missing in the Philippines, authorities took no chances and evacuated entire towns and villages into over 1,500 evacuation centers on Friday and Saturday.
"Ruby" made third landfall at the central Marinduque island on Monday noon.
In the coastal town of Atimonan in Quezon province, north of Marinduque, strong gusts brought large waves that battered seawalls.
Despite the storm warning, some residents said they were confident of their safety.
"We'll keep getting a feel of the situation. We'll only leave once this gets really strong," fisherman Danilo Cortez told Reuters TV.
Hundreds of evacuees take refuge at the Capitol Building in Borongan, Eastern Samar as typhoon Ruby make landfall. Photo by Vincent Go for ABS-CBNnews.com
Some stayed in temporary shelters, fearing large swells, even as the storm has weakened considerably since its initial landfall on Saturday (December 6) evening.
"The waves were huge. We might get washed away," said evacuee Virginia Dacuno.
"We're safe and secure here. If we stayed near the coastline, the waters might swell," said another evacuee Enriquita Arevalo. "We're dead if that happens."
The governor of Quezon province said residents living in flood-prone areas were already told to move to evacuation centers.
People in storm-hit areas in the central Philippines could not yet return to their homes due to floods, officials said. Large swathes of Samar and Leyte provinces still have not power and communications.
Hagupit was crawling west northwest at 10 kph (6 mph) from Marinduque towards Oriental Mindoro province on Monday, with winds of up to 105 kph (65 mph) near the center and gusts of up to 135 kph (84 kph), the PAGASA weather bureau said.
The storm is expected to exit the Philippines by Thursday, PAGASA added. With a report from ANC