Dozens Feared Dead as Typhoon Odette Batters Philippines

It's the strongest typhoon to hit the Philippines this year.
Photo/s: PCG

(UPDATE) Dozens have been reported killed in the strongest typhoon to hit the Philippines this year, official tallies showed Sunday, as efforts to deliver water and food to devastated islands ramp up.

Citing official figures from the provincial government of Bohol, AFP said at least 75 individuals are feared dead due to the onslaught of Typhoon Odette (Rai), while the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council reported 31 deaths, four of which were confirmed while 27 are still being verified.

More than 300,000 people fled their homes and beachfront resorts as Odette ravaged the southern and central regions of the archipelago, knocking out communications and electricity in many areas, ripping off roofs and toppling concrete power poles.

Arthur Yap, governor of the popular tourist destination Bohol, said on his official Facebook page that mayors on the devastated island had reported 49 deaths in their towns.

Yap said 10 people were still missing on the island and 13 were injured from the storm after it smashed into the country Thursday as a super typhoon packing wind speeds of 195 kilometres per hour.

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"Communications are still down. Only 21 mayors out of 48 have reached out to us," Yap said, raising fears the death toll could rise in the flood-hit province.

In its 11 a.m. bulletin, state weather bureau PAGASA said Odette continues to traverse the West Philippine Sea, with all storm warning signals in the country lifted.

Thousands of military, police, coast guard and fire personnel are being deployed to assist in search and rescue efforts in the worst-affected areas of the vast archipelago.

Heavy machinery -- like backhoes and front-end loaders -- are also being sent to help clear roads blocked by fallen power poles and trees.

Charities and emergency services have appealed for donations.

A Philippine Navy ship carrying goods and other relief would depart for Bohol on Monday, Yap said, after he earlier declared a state of calamity on the island.

An aerial survey of damage to the island's north made it "very clear that our people have suffered greatly in terms of destroyed homes and agricultural losses," he said.

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Thousands of boxes of water had been delivered after power cuts across the island disrupted water refilling stations, Yap added.

'Reminiscent' of Haiyan

There has also been widespread destruction on Siargao, Dinagat and Mindanao islands, which bore the brunt of Rai when it slammed into the Philippines.

Aerial photos shared by the military showed severe damage in the Siargao town of General Luna, where many surfers and holidaymakers had flocked ahead of Christmas, with buildings stripped of roofs and debris littering the ground.

Dinagat Governor Arlene Bag-ao said Saturday the damage to the island's landscape was "reminiscent if not worse" than that caused by Super Typhoon Haiyan in 2013.

Haiyan, called Yolanda in the Philippines, was the deadliest cyclone on record in the country, leaving more than 7,300 people dead or missing.

In Surigao City, on the northern tip of Mindanao, shattered glass from smashed windows, sheets of corrugated iron roofing, power lines and other debris were scattered in the streets.

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Odette's wind speeds eased to 150 kph as it barrelled across the country, dumping torrential rain, uprooting trees and destroying wooden structures.

It emerged over the South China Sea on Saturday and headed towards Vietnam.

Odette hit the Philippines late in the typhoon season -- most cyclones typically develop between July and October.

Scientists have long warned that typhoons are becoming more powerful and strengthening more rapidly as the world becomes warmer because of human-driven climate change.

The Philippines -- ranked among the globe's most vulnerable nations to the impacts of climate change -- is hit by an average of 20 storms and typhoons every year, which typically wipe out harvests, homes and infrastructure in already impoverished areas.


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