The death toll from flooding and landslides caused by storm
Seniang (international name: Jangmi) in the Visayas rose to 54, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NRRMC), with some regions saying they were caught off guard by the deluge.
Of the toll, 30 were recorded to have occurred in Eastern Visayas region, including the 19 recovered bodies from the landslide in Catbalogan City, Samar, and the 16 persons from Cebu. Those in Catbalogan were buried in a landslide while those in Cebu were swept in floodwaters. At least five were reported to have died in Tanauan, Leyte. At least one fatality were reported each in Burauen, Mahaplag, Dulag and Inopacan towns, all in Leyte.
Social Welfare and Development Secretary Corazon Soliman said that a large number of evacuees have started to go home as the weather improves.
Social Welfare workers also continued distributing food packs worth P7.7 million as augmentation assistance to Agusan del Norte (9,200 food packs), Agusan del Sur (3,375), Surigao del Sur (5,400), and Surigao del Norte with (500).
In Central Visayas, DSWD-Field Office VII has distributed close to 3,000 family food packs to the towns of Barili (1,917) and Dumanjug (1,000) as of December 30.
DSWD Central Office also sent 1,000 family food packs, some 1,000 pieces of mosquito nets, and 2,000 pieces of malong/blanket to Bohol via C-130 of the Philippine Air Force yesterday.
As of yesterday, some 268 evacuation centers in the affected regions remain open down from 648 at the height of the typhoon. Some 24,477 families or 97,883 persons are still housed in these temporary shelters.
In Eastern Visayas, Catbalogan Mayor Stephany Uy-Tan admitted that the storm caught them by surprise.
“We did not expect a deluge. We thought the hill where the landslide hit was tough as rocks. There was no evacuation, people were just advised to prepare for possible landslides. We need to check communication systems to find out what went wrong,” she said.
The storm, which was expected to exit the Philippine Area of Responsibility late last night or early this morning, forced at least 121,737 people to evacuate to government designated centers or to other safer grounds.
The storm’s death toll was nearly triple that of the last major storm to hit the country, Super Typhoon Ruby (Hagupit) earlier this month.
Ruby, with winds of 210 kilometres (130 miles) per hour, sparked a massive evacuation effort as it brought back memories of the strongest storm ever to hit the country, Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), whose 230-kilometer per hour winds left 7,350 dead or missing in 2013.
In Misamis Oriental province, floods flattened rice and corn fields resulting in an estimated P400 million in damages, Gov. Yevgeny Emano told DZMM radio.
“We were caught by surprise, we didn’t expect that we would be hit by the eye of the storm,” Emano said, although he noted he had received some warnings.
In Leyte—the province worst-hit by Haiyan—the rains brought landslides and floods that closed off major roads, Gov. Leopoldo Domenico Petilla said on DZMM.
Mina Marasigan, the national disaster monitoring agency’s spokeswoman, defended the government’s handling of the storm saying weather warnings were sent out even as Seniang was still forming over the Pacific Ocean.
“Maybe people underestimated the situation because it’s a tropical depression, not a super typhoon. They dismissed it as weak. We need to study what happened in this storm closely and find ways for the public to better understand storm warnings,” Marasigan added.