TYPHOON Ruby blew out of the country on Tuesday, leaving at least 27 people dead and laying waste to agricultural crops worth P1.4 billion.
Most of the 27 fatalities were in Samar, according to the Philippine Red Cross.
The typhoon also affected more than two million people, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said.
Among those killed were Eduardo Mercado Bunquin, 29, who was swept by floodwaters in Batangas City, Batangas, and David John Ramos Blanca, 20, who was buried in a landslide in Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro.
The disaster council, however, only listed 11 people dead.
NDDRMC chief Alexander Pama on Tuesday explained that they have a lower death toll count because they had to confirm, validate and verify reports on deaths before they are included in their official tally.
“Eleven so far are confirmed [dead], but only three [are]on the official list,” he said.
The three were Jimmy Cardente, 14, of Cebu, two-month old Princess Abelgas of Calbayor, Samar, and Sonny Recto of Biliran.
Pama said two persons earlier reported to have died in Iloilo were stricken off the official list because the causes of their deaths were not typhoon-related.
Damage to infrastructure, houses and other pieces of private and public property in typhoon-battered provinces, particularly in Regions V, VII and VIII, is still being assessed, he added.
But Armed Forces chief Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. said there were no reported major damage to airports and seaports.
“At the point of entry, which was from Gamay to Dolores to Borongan [eastern Samar], it can be seen [that]public and business structures appeared intact, no major damages observed except for a few with roofs that were missing, roads were not blocked,” Catapang noted.
“Electric posts were not damaged, piers, ports were intact,” he said.
The typhoon steadily weakened as it traveled west across central Philippines, passing close to the capital of Manila on Monday night with only a fraction of the forecast torrential rain.
As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, tropical depression Ruby was located 215 kilometers west- northwest of Calapan City, Oriental Mindoro.
“One of the lessons was to evacuate before the storm hits, evacuate if you live near the sea, evacuate if you live near trees whose branches might fall on you. That lesson was learnt,” Philippine Red Cross chairman Richard Gordon told Agence France-Presse.
Gordon said another crucial factor was Ruby did not generate storm surges, compared with Super Typhoon Yolanda in 2013 when walls of seawater more than two stories high laid waste to hundreds of thousands of coastal homes.
In Manila, tens of thousands of people, mostly the city’s poorest residents who took shelter in evacuation centers returned to their homes also on Tuesday in drizzly weather after only moderate rain and no major flooding throughout the night.
“I’m relieved and thankful that I still have my house,” 63-year-old Corazon Macario said as she prepared to head back to the riverside shanty she shares with her husband and seven relatives.
“But I pity those who have lost their homes in the Visayas.”
The military flew emergency flights with food, water and other essentials from Cebu to the worst-affected areas on Samar also on Tuesday.
Interior Secrtetary Manuel Roxas 2nd said 200,000 people were believed to be in need of help in Eastern Samar, but this could rise as more comprehensive assessments were carried out in isolated communities.
The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement are gearing up for a humanitarian relief effort in areas hit by Ruby.
Gordon said assessment teams visiting Samar Island and Southern Luzon found roofs blown off, toppled trees and electricity and communication lines cut in some areas.
“At this stage, we don’t know the full extent of the damage caused by Typhoon Ruby. It will linger over the Philippines and we can expect incessant rains to continue for the next few days. We are very concerned about the safety of people living in low-lying and mountainous areas who are at a high risk from flash-floods and landslides,” he added. “This is the third consecutive year that the Philippines has been hit by a major typhoon, but swift and preemptive early warnings and evacuations by the government and the Philippine Red Cross have ensured that casualties have so far been minimal,” said Kari Isomaa, head of delegation of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in the Philippines.
“It is too early to give an accurate assessment of overall needs. Food, clean water, emergency shelter materials and primary health care could be among the priorities,” Pascal Mauchle, head of delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross in the Philippines, said. “The typhoon hit areas where poverty and vulnerability levels are very high, in particular within communities suffering the consequences of protracted armed conflicts.”
Australia also on Tuesday said it will provide 800 metric tons of rice to support families affected by the typhoon to be delivered through Australia’s prepositioned stores with the World Food Program.
“Australia is saddened by the loss of life and damage to homes and property in the wake of this typhoon,” Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Bill Tweddell, said in a statement.
WITH AFP, BERNICE CAMILLE BAUZON AND TINA GANZON