DOZENS of people died in landslides and floods triggered by tropical storm Urduja (International name: Kai-tak) as it pummeled Eastern Visayas on Sunday.
Police and local officials reported at least 33 people were killed in the storm. The number has yet to be confirmed by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).
Reports coming from the police and local government units said 14 people died in Caibiran, Biliran; six in Leyte; four in Almeria, Biliran; four in Naval, Biliran; two in San Fernando, Romblon; and one each in Palanas municipality of Masbate, Biliran town and Labo municipality in Camarines Norte.
However, the Office of Civil Defense has yet to confirm the reported deaths.
The storm, with gusts of up to 90 kilometers per hour, cut off power in areas devastated by Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) four years ago. It toppled power lines in 39 towns and cities and damaged roads and bridges, the national disaster agency said.
“Urduja” also injured 19 people and forced 87,700 people from their homes when it tore across the eastern islands of Samar and Leyte on Saturday.
The two islands bore the brunt of Super Typhoon Yolanda in 2013, which left more than 7,350 people dead or missing.
In Leyte City, the storm brought flash floods of up to 1.5 meters (five feet) and strong winds that left the city without power and water, according to its disaster office chief.
“The storm moved so slowly that it brought so much rain to our city. The floods resulted from four days of rain,” Ildebrando Bernadas, head of Tacloban’s disaster risk reduction office, said.
Bernadas said 82 percent of Tacloban’s districts were flooded.
The storm also damaged farms and crops, bringing more misery to people who have yet to recover from the devastation wrought by ‘Yolanda.’
“We had a phobia from (Haiyan) which destroyed our coconut trees. We planted lettuce and eggplant but the new storm took them away too. It’s devastating,” Remedios Serato, a 78-year-old farmer in Leyte, said.
Dozens of flights were cancelled and 15,500 passengers were stranded as officials suspended ferry services in areas lashed by the storm.
Disaster officials warned that more floods and landslides were possible.
“I’ve been stranded for three days, sleeping in the bus, and I just want to get home to my family for Christmas,” Eliaquin Pilapil, a 55-year-old farmer, told Agence France Presse (AFP) from a port in the town of Matnog in the eastern province of Sorsogon.
“We’re given food once or twice a day and some of the passengers here are running out of money.”
The Christmas holidays are a busy travel season in the mainly Catholic Philippines, with people heading home to the provinces.
The archipelago nation is battered by about 20 major storms each year.
Another one coming
Meanwhile, another tropical depression was spotted outside the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR) on Sunday.
It was located at 1,990 km east of Mindanao with maximum sustained winds of 40 kph and 50 kph.
If it enters the country on Tuesday or Wednesday, it will be named “Vinta,” according to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration.
As of late Sunday, “Urduja” was heading toward Aklan. It was located 65 kilometers (km) east south of Romblon, Romblon, maintaining its maximum sustained winds of up to 55 kilometers per hour (kph) and gustiness of up to 80 kph.
The slow-moving tropical depression was expected to move west-southwest at 15 kph and was forecast to leave the country on Wednesday.
Signal No. 1 remained hoisted over the southern part of Mindoro, Romblon, and Palawan in Luzon and Aklan, Antique, Capiz, Iloilo in Visayas.
Scattered to widespread rains will continue over southern part of Mindoro Provinces, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan, Aklan, Capiz and Antique, according to Pagasa.
Pagasa also advised the public that sea travel was not advised in areas under Signal No. 1.
Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon will have cloudy skies with light rains due to the northeast monsoon.
The rest of Mindanao will have partly cloudy to cloudy skies with isolated rainshowers caused by localized thunderstorms.
DEMPSEY REYES, GLEE JALEA, BENJIE L. VERGARA AND AFP