READ: ‘Ursula’ dampens Yule fun
With winds of 195 kilometers an hour, Ursula tore roofs off houses and toppled electric posts as it cut across the country on Wednesday.
With the Internet and mobile phone networks still cut off in some badly damaged areas, a full assessment of Ursula’s damage was not immediately possible on Thursday morning.
But at least 16 people had been confirmed killed in villages and towns in the Visayas, the central third of the Philippines, disaster agency officials said.
READ: ‘Ursula’ batters Visayas; 2 dead
Ursula also hit Boracay, Coron and other holiday destinations that are famed for their white-sand beaches and popular with foreign tourists.
The airport at Kalibo, which services Boracay, was badly damaged, according to a Korean tourist who was stranded there.
“Roads remain blocked, but some efforts have been made to clear away the damage. It’s pretty bad,” Jung Byung Joon said via Instagram messenger.
“Everything within 100 meters of the airport looks broken. There are a lot of frustrated people at the airport as flights have been canceled.
“Taxis are still running but it’s windy and still raining so no one wants to leave the airport, including me. “
Though much weaker, Ursula tracked a similar path as Super Typhoon “Yolanda,” the country’s deadliest storm on record which left more than 7,300 people dead or missing in 2013.
“It’s like the younger sibling of Yolanda. It’s less destructive, but it followed a similar path,” said Cindy Ferrer, an information officer at the Western Visayas region’s disaster officer.
Tens of thousands of people had been forced to evacuate their homes on Wednesday, ruining Christmas celebrations.
Many others were not able to return to their families, with ferries and plane services suspended.
Among those killed was a police officer who was electrocuted by a toppled electric post while patrolling.
In Eastern Samar, which bore the brunt of Ursula, two were dead, Gov. Ben Evardone said.
He identified the victims as Carlos Beltran, 70, from Barangay 3, Balangkayan, who drowned when his house was swept away by storm surge, and Wilson Ogatio, from Barangay Holywood, Guiuan, who was hit by a galvanized iron during the storm.
Sher Rysiah Saises, of the Office of Civil Defense in Eastern Visayas, said Ursula was the strongest typhoon to hit the region this year.
“It was not as strong as Super Typhoon Yolanda in 2013. But the area covered by Ursula was as the same as Yolanda. It was wide,” she said.
She added they are still consolidating the reports on damage to infrastructures and agriculture as power and communication lines in some parts of the region have remained unstable.
At least 3,234 persons were left stranded and spent their Christmas in various seaports in Eastern Visayas during the storm as sea voyages were canceled while thousands were also trapped in various airports, as of Dec. 24.
Flights and sea travel resumed on Dec. 26.
Ursula maintained its strength as it continued to move west-northwest on Thursday.
As of 5 p.m., it was located at 300 kilometers northwest of Coron, Palawan or 295 kms west southwest of Subic, Zambales.
Packing maximum sustained winds of 120 kms per hour near the center and gustiness of up to 150 kph, it was moving west-northwest at 15 kph.
Ursula is forecast to exit the Philippine Area of Responsibility on Saturday.
The Philippines is the first major landmass facing the Pacific typhoon belt and is hit by an average of about 20 major storms a year.
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