Disaster agency fears figure will rise
- Published on Wednesday, 05 December 2012 23:00
- Written by VICTOR REYES
By A Web design Company
TYPHOON “Pablo” has left at least 274 persons dead, mostly in Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental where landslides and flashfloods occurred, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said yesterday.
NDRRMC executive director Benito Ramos said the death toll could further rise as there were at least 279 persons missing.
Of the fatalities, 253 were from the Davao Region (Region 11), said Ramos.
The region covers Compostela Valley, Davao Oriental, Davao City, Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, and Tagum City.
There were eight dead in Northern Mindanao (Region 10), seven in the Caraga region (Region 13), four in Central Visayas (Region 7), and two in Eastern Visayas (Region 8).
Earlier yesterday, the military said that based on reports from troops on the ground, 237 civilians and four soldiers died in Compostela Valley and in Davao Oriental alone, with 160 of them in Compostela.
Lt. Col. Lyndon Paniza, spokesman of the Army’s 10th Infantry Division based in Compostela Valley, said the figures were based on reports from soldiers who are in the area helping in search, rescue, retrieval, and relief operations.
The soldiers are also helping clear roads in New Bataan, Compostela Valley to allow assistance to come through.
Ramos said the US has offered to assist in the search, rescue, and relief operations. He said the Americans are ready to deploy aircraft, including C-130 transport planes.
Officials feared many more bodies could be found as rescuers reach hard-hit areas that were isolated by landslides, floods and downed communications.
Pablo has made four landfalls since entering the country last Tuesday.
The first was in Banganga town in Davao Oriental at around 4:40 a.m. Tuesday, then in Siquijor province an hour later, and then in the southern part of Negros Oriental still another hour later.
Its fourth landfall was around 8 a.m. yesterday in Roxas town, Palawan.
Pablo continued to weaken.
As of 5 p.m. yesterday, it was spotted some 120 km northwest of Roxas town, with winds of 120 kph and gustiness of 150 kph. Its diameter was further reduced to 400 km, from the original 700 km.
It also slowed down, to 15 kph from 24 kph Tuesday afternoon.
If it maintains track and speed, Pablo will exit the Philippine area of responsibility Thursday evening or Friday morning.
Areas under storm signal No. 3 as of 6 p.m. yesterday were northern Palawan and Calamian Group of Islands.
The rest of Palawan was under signal No. 2 while Occidental Mindoro was under signal No. 1.
Pablo is expected to be some 510 km west of San Jose, Occidental Mindoro this afternoon and about 700 km west of Subic, Zambales tomorrow.
President Aquino said it is a small consolation that Pablo’s destruction was far less than that of storm “Sendong” which hit Mindanao in December last year.
According to the NDRRMC, Sendong’s destruction in seven regions claimed 1,257 lives, damaged P1.382 billion in properties, affected more than two million families, and resulted in the evacuation of 411,537 families.
“Kung iko-compare natin sa ‘Sendong’ ang laki naman yata ng diperensya ng casualties natin dito, ano. Pero any single casualty is a cause for distress. Parati nating hahanapin: ‘pwede bang nabawasan pa ito?’” Aquino said.
The President said Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II is in Mindanao seeing to the disaster operations and assessing how damage could have been minimized.
He said he has also asked Science Secretary Mario Montejo to try to seek better performance from the weather bureau. He said no one can fault the weather bureau if the typhoon changed its course, which is why hourly bulletins are being issued.
Aquino said P8 billion in relief assistance, including P4 billion from the Calamity Fund, is ready for release.
“These are revenues from unexpected sources. This is with the sale of the Food Terminal Inc.,” he said.
He said he will visit the affected areas, especially Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental, as soon as possible.
In his speech at the general assembly of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines, Aquino praised local officials who skipped the convention to attend to their constituents, saying they are doing their mandate as frontliners of government.
“This is not sacrifice; this is called duty. It is called obligation to those who trusted us and who gave us our mandate,” he said.
He told them not to take advantage of the calamity victims to campaign for the upcoming elections.
“Nahaharap na naman po sa pagsubok ang ating bansa, at lagi nating pinatutunayan sa ganitong mga pagkakataon kung anong uri ng lahi mayroon tayo,” he added.
In another event later yesterday, Aquino said the numbers on the damage of the typhoon “seem to be alarming” and expressed hope that they are merely “erroneous.”
“I really had so much bad news today, especially from the effects of Typhoon Pablo…The numbers seem to be alarming. Hopefully they were erroneous numbers which would be corrected soon,” he said during the awarding ceremony of the 2012 Presidential Awards for Individuals and Organizations Overseas.
He thanked singer Apl.de.ap (real name, Allan Pineda) for singing “Bebot” during the ceremony, which he said lifted him.
Aquino also thanked him for visiting last year parts of Cagayan de Oro that were ravaged by Sendong and for donating a new school building.
Apl.de.ap, designer Monique Lhuillier, and Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra were among the presidential awardees.
Aquino said he is confident that the Filipinos overseas would help those devastated by Pablo.
In New Bataan, Compostela Valley, stunned parents searching for missing children examined a row of mud-stained bodies covered with banana leaves while survivors dried their soaked belongings on roadsides.
About 80 people survived the deluge in New Bataan town with injuries, but between 50 and 319 others remain missing, according to varying estimates by government officials and the army.
The farming town of 45,000 people was a muddy wasteland of collapsed houses and coconut and banana trees felled by Pablo’s ferocious winds.
On a roadside, dozens of mud-stained bodies were laid side-by-side, covered by cloth and banana leaves and surrounded by villagers. A man sprayed insecticide on the remains to keep away swarms of flies.
A father wept when he lifted a plastic cover and found the body of his child. A mother, meanwhile, went away in tears, unable to find her missing children. “I have three children,” she said repeatedly, flashing three fingers before a TV cameraman.
In nearby Davao Oriental, the coastal province first struck by the typhoon, at least 115 people perished, mostly in three towns that were so battered that it was hard to find any buildings with roofs remaining, provincial officer Freddie Bendulo and other officials said.
“We had a problem where to take the evacuees. All the evacuation centers have lost their roofs,” Davao Oriental Gov. Corazon Malanyaon said.
Unlike the previous day’s turbulent weather, the sun was shining brightly Wednesday, prompting residents to lay their soaked clothes, books and other belongings out on roadsides to dry and revealing the extent of the damage to farmland. Thousands of banana trees in one Compostela Valley plantation were toppled by the wind, the young bananas still wrapped in blue plastic covers.
Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the Department of Social Welfare and Development is calling for donations of woven mats, children’s clothing, blankets, plastic sheets, flash lights, and batteries for evacuees.
Lacierda said tarpaulins for temporary roofing and generator sets are also needed. He said donations could be given in drop-off points nationwide.
Vice President Jejomar C. Binay will fly to Davao and Compostela Valley today to inspect the damage and distribute some 5,000 bags of goods containing noodles, biscuits and canned goods.
“We will have a meeting with the DILG and DSWD in order to discuss how we will handle the situation,” Binay said in a television interview.
“Based on our experience during typhoon Sendong, we will have to coordinate all the government efforts, so that we can ensure fast and efficient service,” he added.
Binay said the housing agencies will use all possible means to help ease the burdens of those affected by the natural calamity.
He said the National Housing Authority will provide materials for the repair of damaged houses while the Home Development Mutual (Pag-IBIG) Fund will offer calamity loans and provide insurance to its members.
“Pag-IBIG members who availed of housing loans for the construction or repair of their houses are covered by insurance,” Binay said.
The housing czar also said Pag-IBIG members can also apply for a calamity loan which is the equivalent of 80 percent of their total savings. He added Pag-IBIG offers the lowest interest rate of calamity loans in the market.
“Pag-IBIG’s calamity loan now carries a yearly interest rate of 5.95 percent, compared to the previous 10.75 percent,” Binay said.
Binay also appealed to the private sector to help in providing relief goods to those in the evacuation areas.
“Again, I would like to appeal to the private sector to help us in providing relief to those affected by the typhoon. I just had a talk with Mayor Junjun Binay of Makati and he already committed their support,” he added.
A Quezon City court will not conduct hearings on the 2009 Maguindanao massacre case this week as prosecution witnesses from Mindanao cannot come to Manila because flights were cancelled due to bad weather.
State Prosecutor Aristotle Reyes said they have informed Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes of the situation.
The court holds hearings every Wednesday and Thursday at a makeshift courtroom inside the Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan, Taguig City.
Among witnesses supposed to be presented this week are two police officers and a member of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group.
Pampanga Rep. Gloria Arroyo asked congressmen to prioritize attending to typhoon victims amid the plenary deliberations on the controversial reproductive health bill which she is strongly opposing.
“We enjoin our fellow lawmakers to set aside legislative work and prioritize helping our affected and distressed countrymen,” the former president said in a statement.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said the House will adopt a resolution urging all members to contribute cash for the typhoon victims.
The House minority bloc led by Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez vowed to donate part of their salaries to the typhoon victims. – With Angela Lopez de Leon, Regina Bengco, Ashzel Hachero, Wendell Vigilia and AP