MANILA— Typhoon Odette has killed at least 4 and forced over 334,000 people in Southern Luzon and the Visayas to evacuate because of the storm, the country's disaster response agency said on Saturday.
National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) Spokesperson Mark Timbal, in a virtual briefing, said they are still assessing the extent of the damage and cannot provide any figures yet.
NDRRMC's 8 a.m. monitoring report, meanwhile, noted that a death is still being validated while 2 injuries are also for for confirmation. The agency's report Saturday is lower than the reported 12 individuals on Friday night.
Based on a tally by news service Agence France-Presse, as of 2 p.m., at least 23 people have been killed in the strongest typhoon to hit the Philippines this year, with "alarming" reports of destruction on islands that bore the brunt of the storm.
"This is indeed one of the most powerful storms that has hit the Philippines in the month of December in the last decade," Alberto Bocanegra, head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in the Philippines, told AFP.
"The information we are receiving and the pictures we are receiving are very alarming."
Odette had maximum sustained winds of 195 kilometers per hour (kph) near the center, with gusts of up to 270 kph when it pounded Bohol on Thursday.
"Kagabi, nagbigay po ng possible projections sa pagpupulong with President Duterte at ito pong numero na ito inaantay pa po natin ang official reports pa po tungkol diyan," Timbal said.
(Last night, we gave possible projections to President Duterte regarding casualties and we are still waiting for official reports about it.)
"But on our end sa operations center, at the end of the NDRRMC level, 4 pa lang po ang ating nakukumpirma sa mga fatalities natin," he added.
(On our end at the NDRRMC, we have just confirmed four deaths.)
A total of 187,750 individuals or 51,113 families were affected by the powerful storm while 334,470 people or at least 83,000 families were preemptively evacuated due to Odette's threat.
The NDRRMC said these people are located in Mimaropa, Caraga, Bicol Region, Western and Eastern Visayas, Northern Mindanao, and the Davao Region.
The disaster response official said toppled communication and power lines in affected areas have made it difficult for them to gather data.
"May commitment po ang ating communication and power sectors na maibalik po as soon as possible itong mga serbisyo na ito, dahil ongoing po ang inspection... at pagkukumpuni ng mga power lines and communication towers natin," he said.
(Our communication and power sectors already committed to bring back the lines as soon as possible. The inspections are ongoing and the power lines and communication towers are being repaired.)
Their emergency telecommunication "duo" from the NDRRMC have also arrived in Siargao to establish satellite communication in their areas.
Typhoon Odette slammed into surfing paradise Siargao Island on Thursday, packing maximum sustained winds of 195 kilometers an hour.
The NDRRMC report said there are 3 areas in Central Visayas and Eastern Visayas which are "still experiencing communication outage/issues."
This figure may still be higher amid reports from local officials in other areas about brownouts or unavailable communication lines.
Meanwhile, Agriculture Assistant Secretary Kristine Evangelista also did not provide an estimate on agricultural losses yet, saying that data is being consolidated.
"Medyo challenging po ngayon ang communication sa ating regional offices. As of right now, wala pa po tayong exact figure ng laki ng pinsala pagdating po sa agrikultura, pero ito po ay tinatrabaho," Evangelista said during the same briefing.
(Communication is challenging right now in our regional offices. We still don't have exact figures in terms of damage but we are working on it.)
Citing initial information from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), the official said the areas of Limasawa in Southern Leyte, San Pablo and San Pedro in Laguna are among those badly hit in the fisheries sector.
Odette was last spotted 380 kilometers west northwest of Puerto Princesa City, Palawan with maximum sustained winds of up to 155 kilometers per hour and gustiness of up to 190 kph.
It was moving westward at 25 kph, PAGASA said.
PAGASA said it expects Odette to continue moving west northwestward over the West Philippine Sea, and may exit the Philippine Area of Responsibility on Saturday afternoon. — With a report by Agence France-Presse