'Pure horror:' Odette survivors recall wrath of PH's strongest typhoon in 2021

Thea Alberto-Masakayan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 20 2021 07:20 PM | Updated as of Dec 21 2021 12:15 PM

People clear the debris from their homes in Mabolo-Kasambagan area in Cebu on December 17, 2021 after their roofs were blown away at the height of Typhoon Odette. More than 300,000 people fled their homes as the strongest typhoon to hit the Philippines this year pummeled the southern and central regions of the country, packing maximum winds of 195 kilometers an hour. Courtesy of Henryl Moreño
People clear the debris from their homes in Mabolo-Kasambagan area in Cebu on December 17, 2021 after their roofs were blown away at the height of Typhoon Odette. More than 300,000 people fled their homes as the strongest typhoon to hit the Philippines this year pummeled the southern and central regions of the country, packing maximum winds of 195 kilometers an hour. Courtesy of Henryl Moreño

MANILA - For artist Ina Amor-Mejia, It was supposed to be a simple hotel quarantine in Mactan, Cebu, as part of their anti-COVID measures before their planned Christmas gatherings. 

But as typhoon Odette (international name: Rai) pummeled through the region and neighboring provinces, Amor-Mejia saw herself and her son under a bathroom sink, finding ways to survive.

"I was looking at my son, crouched under the bathroom sink. I was thinking about how best to die, that I would just be holding him," Amor-Mejia told ABS-CBN News on Sunday.

The strong typhoon caused the collapse of their hotel room’s ceiling and blew out the glass of the french doors, Amor-Mejia recalled. 

“[We were] in complete darkness for two hours, in disbelief and pure horror until it passed. But we are the lucky ones. So much devastation around us and elsewhere,” added Amor-Mejia, who already reached Cebu City at the time of the interview. 

Super typhoon Odette, which at its peak packed maximum sustained winds of 195 kilometers per hour, displaced nearly half a million people across provinces and left over 200 dead, according to government estimates. Figures are expected to rise in the coming days, as agencies continue to verify reports from the ground. 

In island paradise Siargao, tourists were seen finding cover as waves crashed into seaside resorts. 

Pepe Diokno, film director and screen writer, recalled how a massive wave hit the reef and the building where they were staying. 

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“Burgos is badly hit. We think there was a storm surge because houses were flooded. Sea wall is broken,” he said of one of the nine towns on the island, reporting that many roads in the area were impassable. 

“Please keep praying for the people of Siargao. Some have lost family members, most have lost their livelihoods. They will need a lot of help in the coming months and years,” he added. 

Ferrying relief goods to affected provinces was initially a challenge, as many domestic airports reported damage. Stranded passengers were also desperate for flights, Vice President Leni Robredo reported Sunday, after she went to areas affected by the typhoon. 

Dinagat Islands was ‘leveled to the ground,’ and not even the provincial capitol survived. 

Image from the office of Vice President Leni Robredo. The government official trooped to areas badly hit by Odette over the weekend.
Image from the office of Vice President Leni Robredo. The government official trooped to areas badly hit by Odette over the weekend.

Provincial information officer Jeff Crisostomo said residents made homeless by the typhoon are staying in evacuation centers. He stressed, however, that these buildings have been damaged as well.

In San Miguel, Bohol, 95 percent of the homes of 6,400 households in the 4th class municipality are severely damaged, said Mayor Virgilio Mendez. 

San, Miguel Bohol after typhoon Odette. Photo by Niko Baua, ABS-CBN News
San, Miguel Bohol after typhoon Odette. Photo by Niko Baua, ABS-CBN News

Odette also downed some 200 electrical posts in Bohol and at least 15 backbone lines in Cebu, National Grid Corporation of the Philippines spokesperson Atty. Cynthia Alabanza told TeleRadyo earlier Monday.

Communication lines remained down in several areas hit by Odette, making rescue and relief operations doubly difficult.

President Rodrigo Duterte promised a "convoy of rice and water" for typhoon survivors, even as he earlier said the national government already lacked money. 

Duterte said the national government will release P2 billion to local governments of Odette-pummeled areas, and that he would look for another P2 billion to help typhoon survivors.

- With reports from Jamaine Punzalan and Niko Baua, ABS-CBN News

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