200,000 remain displaced as toll rises to 45

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The death toll from two storms that battered the country last week rose to 45 on Sunday as several towns remained under water and rain kept falling in northern regions, disaster monitoring officials said.

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The rain was caused by a cold front, dragged into the country by Typhoon Nona (international name: Melor) and Tropical Depression Onyok, which hit the country in succession last week.

Nona hit the southeast of Luzon—the Philippines’ largest group of islands—on December 14 and moved west across the archipelago.

Even as it departed for the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea), another storm named locally as Onyok hit the southern island of Mindanao and brought more heavy rain.

The government weather station said the tropical depression had dissipated and the weather would improve nationwide by Monday.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) also on Sunday said more than 200,000 people were displaced as parts of Luzon and Eastern Visayas remained under water.

The multi-agency council said a total of 65,318 families or 289,616 people in Central Luzon, Mimaropa, Calabarzon and Eastern Visayas are still staying in evacuation centers.

Of the total number of displaced, 19,046 families or 87,743 people are staying inside 367 evacuation centers.

The rest of the affected families are either staying in their friends or relatives’ homes.

The NDRRMC reported 118 areas in Ilocos Region, Central Luzon, Mimaropa (Mindoro-Marinduque-Romblon-Palawan) and Metro Manila are still flooded.

Eight cities and 45 towns in Central Luzon, Mimaropa, Calabarzon (Cavite-Laguna-Batangas-Rizal-Quezon), Bicol Region and Eastern Visayas are without power and 42 roads and 21 bridges were still not passable.

The NDRRMC said a total of 168,439 houses were damaged in areas hardest hit by the typhoon.

It pegged the typhoon’s damage to agriculture and infrastructure at more than P2 billion.

Floods almost three meters (nine feet) deep covered some riverside areas in Central Luzon as heavy rain kept falling, civil defense officials said.

“Our home has been flooded up to the waist. It has been flooded for over two days,” said Mary Jane Bautista, 35, in the agricultural town of Calumpit in Bulacan.

Her family and several others were forced to take refuge on nearby high ground — in front of a church where their only shelter is the awning over the entrance. With AFP and PNA

“My husband has to wade through the waters to go home to get supplies. If we need water, he has to go to the faucet in our kitchen,” Bautista said, expressing fears the current could wash him away.

“We had some food but it just ran out,” she added, complaining that government relief goods had not yet reached her.

Around Bautista, the streets had turned into fast-moving rivers, passable only by rowboats and people using inner tubes.

Many low-lying areas in Bulacan and Nueva Ecija act as a catchment area for rain in other parts of the main island of Luzon.

“It [the flood]really takes a long time to recede because this is the lowest area,” said Glenn Diwa, an officer with the regional disaster council.

Over 54,000 people in the region were huddling in government evacuation centers, he added.

Diwa said there was no guarantee they would be home by Christmas.

Fatalities rising
Almost a week after Nona struck, the death toll was still rising.

The NDRRMC, in its morning report, placed the official fatality count at 35 with six people missing and 24 more were added to the injury list.

It said Jose Huiden, 21, from Bulan, Sorsogon, was killed after he got hit in the head by a fallen branch of a mango tree.

Based on reports from the regional and provincial DRRMCs, however, the count has reached 45 after

the bodies of four dead fishermen washed up days after the storm.

The count was 41 on Saturday.

“They left during clear weather. But they were caught by the typhoon on the way home,” said Cedric Daep, the region’s civil defense chief.

The unregistered vessel did not have a radio or even life vests, he added.

The Philippines, with a population of 100 million, is battered by an average of 20 typhoons annually, many of them deadly.

In 2013, Super Typhoon Yolanda (international code name: Haiyan) wiped out entire fishing communities in the central islands, leaving 7,350 people dead or missing.

Relief mission continues
Malacañang also on Sunday said the government will remain steadfast in helping the victims of Nona despite the ambush of three government trucks carrying relief goods for typhoon victims in Samar.

”The government will be unshaken and will even intensify its efforts to bring the assistance to our countrymen affected by the typhoon despite the ambush done by the suspected NPA [New People’s Army],” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in a Radyo ng Bayan interview.

A convoy of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) personnel belonging to the 546th Engineering Battalion and the 81st Division Reconnaissance Company had just brought relief goods to typhoon-stricken areas when they were attacked by armed men last Thursday in Pinabacdao, Samar.

”The AFP and the Philippine National Police continue to coordinate with DSWD to increase the security for the relief operations,” Coloma said.

He added that the decision by President Benigno Aquino 3rd to declare unilateral suspension of military operations against the NPA last Friday would boost the relief operations for typhoon victims in Oriental Mindoro, Albay, Samar, Romblon and Sorsogon.

Coloma said the government is also helping the victims of tropical storm Onyok that brought heavy rains to Mindanao areas.

Last Friday, President Benigno Aquino 3rd issued Proclamation 1186 declaring a state of national calamity to further hasten the distribution of relief assistance and to impose price controls, particularly in areas heavily affected by Nona.

Coloma said the NDRRMC had distributed P56.2 million assistance to Regions II, IV-A, IV-B, V and VIII.

He added that the DSWD had also prepositioned P674 million worth of standby funds, P111.5 million worth of food and non-food items and 204,000 food packs in Regions X, XI, XII, Caraga and the National Relief Operations Center in Metro Manila.

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