Typhoon survivors send SOS out as situation turns desperate
Survivors of Typhoon “Odette” pleaded for drinking water, food, money, and other necessities Monday as desperation set in following the strongest storm to hit the Philippines this year.
“Our situation is so desperate,” said Ferry Asuncion, a street vendor in the hard-hit seaside city of Surigao, which was devastated by the storm.
Residents urgently needed drinking water and food, he said.
Four provinces—Cebu, Bohol, Negros Occidental and Southern Leyte—and the whole Caraga region in northeastern Mindanao have declared states of calamity, with more areas expected to follow suit.
“SOS” (save our ship) was painted on a road in the popular tourist town of General Luna on Siargao island, where surfers and holidaymakers had flocked ahead of Christmas, as people struggled to find water and food.
“There’s no water anymore, there’s a water shortage, on day one there was already looting in our neighborhood,” Siargao resort owner Marja O’Donnell told CNN Philippines.
As media descended on the island and other areas laid low by Odette, television and radio crews devoted their broadcasts to residents to call out “live” to their kin in Luzon and Mindanao—which was largely spared by the storm—and abroad for any help they could spare.
“My father was killed when our house fell on him. I really hope someone can help us. My elder siblings in Manila and Davao don’t know this yet,” Eva Mante said in Cebuano between tears in Pilar, Bohol, still mourning her 70-year-old dad in a GMA News interview.
Swathes of the affected areas have no communications, hampering efforts by disaster agencies to assess the full extent of the storm’s damage.
Electricity has also been knocked out, affecting water-refilling stations and automated teller machines (ATMs) where Filipinos usually keep their cash.
Thousands of military, police, coast guard and fire personnel have been deployed to hard-hit areas along with food, water and medical supplies, while heavy machinery—like backhoes and front-end loaders—have been sent to clear roads blocked by fallen power poles and trees.
But some victims have expressed frustration at the government’s response.
“No one showed up — I don’t know where the politicians and (election) candidates are,” said a visibly angry Levi Lisondra, an elderly resident in Surigao City, on the northern tip of Mindanao.
“We paid big taxes when we were working and now, they can’t help us.”
The Philippine Red Cross reported “complete carnage” in coastal areas after Typhoon “Odette” (international name: Rai) left homes, hospitals, and schools “ripped to shreds.”
The storm tore off roofs, uprooted trees, toppled concrete power poles, smashed wooden houses to pieces, wiped out crops and flooded villages—sparking comparisons to the damage caused by Super Typhoon Haiyan in 2013.
More than 380,000 people fled their homes and beachfront resorts as Odette slammed into the country on Thursday as a super typhoon.
Victims of the typhoon needed water, ready-to-eat food and hygiene kits, the Philippine Coast Guard said Monday as it dispatched its vessels for relief operations.
The BRP Sindangan left Monday to bring assistance to Siargao, said Commodore Armand Balilo, PCG spokesman. Twenty-one tourists were stranded in Siargao, but some were able to leave the island Sunday as vessels were allowed to sail, he added.
Coast Guard stations in Pagasa Island and Kalayaan Island were washed out, he said.
There has also been widespread destruction on Dinagat and Mindanao islands, which along with Siargao bore the brunt of the storm when it slammed into the country packing wind speeds of 195 kilometers per hour.
Odette hit the Philippines late in the typhoon season—most cyclones develop between July and October.
The Philippines has an established disaster management system that provides early warnings to residents of an approaching storm and moves vulnerable communities into evacuation centers before it hits.
But the storm has dealt a savage blow to the country’s tourism sector, which was already struggling to recover after COVID-19 restrictions decimated visitor numbers.
The Department of Agriculture said the storm damage in the regions of Calabarzon, Bicol, Western Visayas, Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Central Mindanao, Davao and Caraga had reached P333.4 million, affecting 12,750 farmers and fishermen, and with a volume production loss of 19,640 metric tons and 23,198 hectares of agricultural land. with AFPRice, corn, high-value crops, and fisheries all suffered damage.
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. Alena Mae Flores with AFP