1 dead as Typhoon Odette batters the Philippines

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Dec 17 2021 10:12 AM | Updated as of Dec 17 2021 06:38 PM

Residents walk past an uprooted tree, downed by inclement weather from Typhoon Odette, along a road in Naga town in Cebu province on Dec. 17, 2021, a day after the typhoon hit the province. Alan Tangcawan, AFP
Residents walk past an uprooted tree, downed by inclement weather from Typhoon Odette, along a road in Naga town in Cebu province on Dec. 17, 2021, a day after the typhoon hit the province. Alan Tangcawan, AFP

MANILA (3rd UPDATE)—The strongest typhoon to hit the Philippines this year uprooted trees, toppled power lines and flooded villages as it barreled across the archipelago Friday, leaving at least 1 person dead. 

More than 330,000 people fled their homes and beachfront resorts as Typhoon Odette pummeled the southern and central regions of the country, knocking out communication lines in some areas and tearing roofs off buildings.

Odette was a super typhoon when it slammed into Siargao Island on Thursday, packing maximum sustained winds of 195 kilometers per hour. By Friday, wind speeds had eased to 155 kph, the state weather forecaster said.

"We are seeing people walking in the streets, many of them shell-shocked," ABS-CBN correspondent Dennis Datu reported from the hard-hit city of Surigao on the southern island of Mindanao.

"All buildings sustained heavy damage, including the provincial disaster office. It looks like it's been hit by a bomb."

Datu said the main roads leading into the coastal city had been cut off by landslides, fallen trees and toppled power poles. 

The national disaster agency confirmed 1 person had been killed and 2 others injured in the storm, which was heading towards the popular tourist destination of Palawan island. 
 
Initial information showed that the fatality and injured persons were recorded in San Fernando, Bukidnon. 

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said the information is still being validated. The agency added it has yet to receive information on reported casualties in Iloilo and Guimaras.

“Sa ngayon, we have yet to receive the official and validated number of casualties. We have to verify with the LGUs, DILG and DOH para ma-officialize ang casualty from Iloilo as initially reported,” NDRRMC Operations Center chief Joe-Mar Perez told reporters in a virtual press conference.

Some 332,000 people or at least 82,000 families had sought emergency shelter as the typhoon charged across the Pacific Ocean and smashed into the country, the agency said. About 18,000 had yet to return home.

Eastern Visayas recorded the highest number of evacuees with 244,741, followed by Caraga with 78,290, Western Visayas with 6,616, Central Visayas with 2,336, and Zamboanga Peninsula with 872.

“We’re expecting na madadagdagan pa ang figures sa Mimaropa na nagko-conduct ng preemptive evacuation since sila ang next na ine-expect na makaka-experience nitong si Odette,” he said.

(We are still expecting the figures to go up. In Mimaropa, they already conducted preemptive evacuation since they are expecting to be hit by Odette.)

Surigao City Mayor Ernesto Matugas told ABS-CBN that Odette ravaged the city of around 170,000 people for several hours, causing "severe" damage.

"The wind was very strong," Matugas said.

"Everything sustained damage— roofs blown off, access roads blocked by landslides."

Scores of flights were cancelled across the country on Thursday and dozens of ports temporarily closed as the weather bureau warned several meter-high storm surges could cause "life-threatening flooding" in low-lying coastal areas.

Odette (international name: Rai) is hitting the Philippines late in the typhoon season, with most cyclones developing between July and October.

Scientists have long warned that typhoons are becoming more powerful, and strengthening more rapidly, as the world becomes warmer because of human-driven climate change. 

A super typhoon is the equivalent of a category 5 hurricane in the United States.

The Earth tends to experience around 5 storms of that power a year.
 

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'EXTENSIVE DAMAGE'

The Philippine Red Cross said "extensive damage" was reported in coastal areas in parts of Eastern Visayas, such as Southern Leyte.

Floods were also recorded in Bohol such as Loboc and Tubigon, PRC chairman Sen. Richard Gordon told TeleRadyo.

"We are assessing those severely affected and we'll send help," he said in Filipino.

The PRC will be deploying food packs, water tankers, trucks and boats to help those affected by Odette.
 

Courtesy of PAGASA
Courtesy of PAGASA

Odette, the 15th tropical cyclone to enter the country this year, has made 8 landfalls as of 12 a.m. Friday.

The typhoon first hit land in Siargao Island, Surigao del Norte (Dec. 16, 1:30 p.m.) then moved to Cagdianao, Dinagat Islands (Dec. 16, 3:10 p.m.).

Odette made its third landfall in Liloan, Southern Leyte (Dec. 16, 4:50 p.m.) and proceeded to Padre Burgos, Southern Leyte (Dec. 16, 5:40 p.m.).

The tropical cyclone struck President Carlos P. Garcia, Bohol (Dec. 16, 6:30 p.m.), Bien Unido, Bohol (Dec. 16, 7:30 p.m.) and Carcar, Cebu (Dec. 16, 10 p.m.).

Its eighth landfall was recorded at La Libertad, Negros Oriental (Dec. 17, 12 a.m.).
 

RAPID ASSESSMENT

The NDRRMC said military air assets would be deployed to conduct rapid damage and needs assessment on the typhoon-hit areas.

"For now, there are few information that we have received about the damages brought by Typhoon Odette," NDRRMC executive director Ricardo Jalad said in Filipino.

Parts of Mindanao and Visayas experienced flooding due to heavy rain, he said. Scores of towns and cities were still without power while communication lines were down, he added.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) added that they would be in close coordination with the NDRRMC to respond to areas affected by the typhoon. 

The initiative will involve emergency evacuations, search and rescue, clearing operations, and transport assistance for relief goods, AFP Spokesperson Col. Ramon Zagala said.

"We have mobilized units from our regional commands to the battalion level to ensure the widest coverage possible. Air and naval assets are also on call and ready for deployment to support the national and local disaster risk reduction and management councils and other response clusters," said Zagala. 

Other units are also on standby, he added. 

Meanwhile, NDRRMC said the power outages are in the following provinces and areas:

  •  Negros Occidental
  •  Guimaras
  •  Portions of Antique
  •  Capiz
  •  Aklan
  •  Iloilo 
  •  Bohol
  •  Cebu
  •  Negros Oriental
  •  Southern Leyte
  •  Portions of Leyte and Biliran
  •  Dinagat Islands
  •  Siargao, Surigao del Norte 
  •  Portions of Surigao del Sur

Areas within Cebu, Southern Leyte and Dinagat Islands, meanwhile, experienced disruption in telecommunication services.

“We’ve had reports coming from our telecommunication partners that there are a number of areas that have been affected, the telecom services have been interrupted dahil sa impact ng bagyo (because of the typhoon's impact)" NDRRMC Spokesperson Mark Timbal said. 

"The good thing is, our telco partners, mayroon tayong teams na nakahanda para sa agad na pagkukumpuni ng cell sites na ito. Once the coast is clear na okay nang lumabas sa areas, walang danger ng falling debris, magsisimula na ang pagkukumpuni ng cell sites,” he added.

(Our telco partners have prepared teams so they could fix the cell sites. Once the coast is clear and it is safe to go out, they will start fixing the cell sites.)

“But between disaster managers, tuloy-tuloy ang ating pag-uusap, although there are some difficulties between the usage of mobile telecomms. Ang kagandahan nito, meron tayong back-up comms na gamit, our radio communications and satellite communications."

(Our communication is ongoing. We have back up communication despite the difficulties of coordinating efforts.)

CHALLENGES

The disaster response agency said it is still evaluating the damage brought by the typhoon to agriculture and infrastructure, among others.

“We have yet to gather data on the total incidents monitored— status ng ports, kung may stranded individuals pa tayo, our affected population and casualties, and damage to agriculture and infrastructure,” Perez said.

(We have yet to gather data if there are still stranded individuals, how many are really affected, how many have died.)

The agency admitted some of the challenges they are facing in terms of disaster response are disruption in communication and transportation services.

“Primary ang communication kasi 'yun ang basis ng regional and national government kung ano ang assistance. Another factor is ang transportation, lalo maraming natamaan na islands. Reaching those areas will require air and sea travel,” Perez explained.

(Communication is of primary importance because that's the basis of the assistance we can provide them. Another factor is transportation because many islands are affected.)

“Weather ang kalaban natin, hindi po readily makapunta ang tulong hanggang maging permissible ang situation ng ating teams on the ground. But we have to highlight primarily ang communication dahil hindi mapupuntahan ng ating responders ang area nang di nila alam ano precisely ang needs na dadalhin kasi it will require logistical resources,” he added.

(The weather is our enemy. We cannot go to the affected areas until the situation permits it. We have to highlight the importance of communication because our responders cannot go to those areas while they do not know the assistance that people need.) 

But the agency also said there has been a major improvement in our disaster preparedness compared to previous typhoons with the same strength.

In PAGASA's 2 p.m. bulletin, Odette is approaching Palawan and is forecast to make landfall in the vicinity of northern or central portion of the island province on Friday afternoon.

The center of the eye of the typhoon was last spotted 130 kms
Southwest of Cuyo, Palawan

Odette is packing maximum sustained winds of 155 kph near the center, with gusts of up to 215 kph.

Tropical cyclone wind signal number 3 has been raised over the northern portion of Palawan, including Cagayancillo and Cuyo Islands.

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— With reports from Bianca Dava, ABS-CBN News; Agence France-Presse