Typhoon “Rolly,” the most powerful storm to hit the country this year, destroyed tens of thousands of homes and killed at least 16 people, officials said Monday, as communications to the worst-hit areas remained cut off.
Catanduanes Island and nearby Albay province bore the brunt of the typhoon, which was packing maximum sustained wind speeds of 225 kilometers per hour (kph) when it slammed into the east coast on Sunday.
Ferocious winds and torrential rain toppled power lines, triggered flooding, and sparked landslides that engulfed houses as Rolly swept across the southern part of Luzon. More than 300 houses were buried under volcanic rock and mudflows from Mayon Volcano in Albay province.
The typhoon lost intensity as it skirted Metro Manila and headed out to the South China Sea.
Disaster officials said five people were missing as the typhoon affected 2 million people across 12 of the country’s 18 regions in the Visayas, the Bicol region, and Luzon provinces.
Electricity was knocked out in areas battered by the strong winds, which knocked down electrical posts, including some areas in Metro Manila.
"We are horrified by the devastation caused by this typhoon in many areas including Catanduanes island and Albay," Philippines Red Cross chief Senator Richard Gordon said in a statement.
"Up to 90 percent of homes have been badly damaged or destroyed in some areas,” he said.
Nearly 400,000 people fled their homes ahead of the typhoon and most of them remain in evacuation centers as authorities scramble to restore power and telecommunications services in the hardest-hit areas.
Ten deaths were recorded in Albay province, but provincial disaster chief Cedric Daep said without pre-emptive evacuations, thousands would have died.
Three of the victims were caught in landslides of volcanic ash that police said engulfed numerous houses in two adjacent villages near the active Mayon volcano. Another three are still missing.
Rolly was ranked as a "super typhoon" when it made landfall on Catanduanes where at least six people died and authorities estimate most houses and infrastructure were damaged.
Across the areas in Rolly’s path more than 20,000 houses were destroyed and around 55,500 were damaged, Civil Defense said in a statement. Farmland was also damaged.
Clean-up efforts were under way with residents removing sodden furniture and other belongings from their houses as they shoveled out mud after heavy rains inundated towns.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said the fatalities were from Albay (10) and Catanduanes (6).
NDRRMC spokesperson Mark Timbal said reports of damage and the number of casualties due to Rolly were still being verified.
Agriculture Secretary William Dar said Rolly caused P1.1 billion in farm losses, with rice, corn and high-value commercial crops suffering damage.
Farms and fishing grounds were destroyed in the Bicol region, Calabarzon and Mimaropa.
Dar said his department has already positioned 133,326 bags of rice seeds and 17,435 bags of corn seeds for replanting in areas ravaged by Typhoon Rolly.
The DA has also prepared 2,000 kilogs of assorted vegetable seeds to help vegetable growers recover from their losses.
Dar said those affected by the disaster could get help fromthe department’s Quick Response Fund of P400 million and loan assistance of as much as P25,000 per farmer under the Survival and Recovery Loan Program, which provides loans payable in 10 years at 0 percent interest.
The DA will also provide indemnification funds from the Philippine Crop Insurance Corp. For typhoon-insured crops.
Each farmer with insured crops will receive P10,000 to P15,000, depending on the value of losses and the kind of crops lost.
The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) reported that 18 road sections in four regions are closed to traffic due to damage from Typhoon Rolly.
In a press briefing at the NDRRMC Monday, DPWH Secretary Mark Villar said these road sections in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), Region 3 (Central Luzon), Region 4-A (Calabarzon), and Region 5 are not passable due to series of slides, fallen trees and electrical posts, and flooding.
“We deployed 777 pieces of heavy equipment and vehicle and 518 tools and light equipment. We also deployed 4,931 personnel before the storm arrived,” Villar said.
Villar added that there are teams that have been sent to typhoon-hit areas to evaluate the damage it caused on roads, bridges, and government buildings.
“Clearing operations are ongoing. We also have teams on the ground to assess damage to government infrastructure,” he said.
In CAR, the roads that are not passable are Apayao-Ilocos Norte Road, due to landslide, and Claveria-Calanasan-Kabugao Road.
The Sto. Tomas-Minalin-Macabebe Road and Nueva Ecija-Aurora Road in Central Luzon are closed to traffic due to flooding and mudslides, respectively.
In Calabarzon, the Catanauan-Buenavista Road is not passable due to fallen trees.
Flights at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) resumed operations on Monday after being suspended due to super typhoon Rolly.
The airport resumed its domestic and international flights at 10 a.m., the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) said.
Airlines with scheduled flights on Monday will be given priority, MIAA general Ed Monreal said. Those affected by the temporary suspension will be given slots, which may cause minimal flight delays.
Monreal said almost 100 passengers were stranded in NAIA, but have been accommodated by their respective airlines.
Flights were canceled Sunday after Rolly roared through the Bicol region and neighboring provinces.
The airports in Legazpi City, Masbate, and Naga have also resumed operations, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) spokesperson Erik Apolonio said.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) said it would assist the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to enforce a price freeze on basic commodities and other essential items in areas that are under a state of calamity due to the typhoon.
In a press statement Monday, PNP chief, Gen. Camilo Pancratius Cascolan, said under Republic Act 7581 or the Price Act of the Philippines, automatic price control is up in areas that are declared under a state of calamity for a period of not more than 60 days.
Aside from listed essential goods and prime commodities being monitored by the DTI, this also covers those under the regulation of the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health such as rice, sugar, poultry, and dairy products, cooking oil, fuel, and medical supplies.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said it would continue to assist the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) in assessing the damage and needs of areas battered by Rolly.
Senator Joel Villanueva, meanwhile, reminded revenue-generating agencies to shore up tax collection, beginning with exiting Philippine offshore gaming operations (POGO) firms which have some P50 billion in tax deficiencies.
Villanueva urged the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) to ensure that it collects all pending taxes, before allowing POGOs to close shop so the government will have available funds to finance the immediate rescue and rehabilitation of communities hit hardest by Rolly. With PNA
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