‘Ofel’ leaves 24 dead, 19 hurtBy Nikko Dizon
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The death toll from Tropical Storm “Ofel” rose sharply to at least 24 on Friday as additional reports of casualties from isolated and far-flung areas in the country came in, officials said.
Most of the fatalities either drowned, were hit by falling trees or were killed in landslides, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said in its report.
Five of the dead were earlier reported missing. Most of them drowned, including 8-year-old Fronda Jonnie Ocson, of Odiongan, Romblon.
Nineteen people were reported injured, including five persons who were hurt after the Philippine National Railways train they were on derailed in Sariaya, Quezon, on Friday.
Eight fishermen from the Visayas and Mindanao remained missing at sea, the agency said.
Rescuers are also still searching for a man believed buried in a landslide in Mindanao, it said.
As of Friday, the Philippine Coast Guard reported that there were no more stranded passengers at the various sea ports. More than 30,000 people stranded since early in the week have resumed their journeys.
Heads for Vietnam
Ofel exited the Philippine area of responsibility at 4 p.m. Friday. The storm gained strength as it blew westward toward Vietnam at 22 kilometers per hour with sustained winds of 85 kph and maximum winds of 100 kph.
In its latest report, the NDRRMC also said that heavy rains and strong winds brought by the tropical storm damaged an estimated P36.6 million worth of infrastructure and agriculture in the Mimaropa and Bicol regions.
Nearly 15,000 families or more than 66,000 persons from Mimaropa, Calabarzon, Masbate, Cebu, Eastern Visayas, Saranggani and the Zamboanga Peninsula were affected by Ofel.
Still in evac centers
Some 3,000 families, or more than 15,000 people, displaced by the storm are still in evacuation centers.
At 2:30 a.m. Friday, a Philippine Navy patrol gunboat (PG 374) rescued 100 elementary school students and 23 others after they were stranded at sea for nearly an hour off Masbate.
Their boat was found in the vicinity of Cueva Point, Burias Island, in Masbate, according to Ensign Chibar Bullos, information officer of Naval Forces Southern Luzon.
Bullos said the M/B Brian, which was ferrying the schoolchildren, 18 teachers and five crew members, experienced engine trouble while en route from Claveria to San Pascual on Burias Island for a district sports meet.
Residents of the island usually travel by boat between the two municipalities due to the poorly maintained road system connecting the two towns.
Bullos said the PG 374 was dispatched on a search and rescue operation after receiving a distress call from the Brian at 1:20 a.m.
Isabela bridges flooded
The Navy gunboat towed the Brian and all its passengers and crew to the San Pascual pier at around 4:30 a.m., he said.
In Isabela, residents were unable to cross three bridges on Saturday because these were submerged in water discharged by the Magat Dam.
The flooding of the Sta. Maria-Cabagan, Cabagan-Santo Tomas and Quirino bridges obstructed access to several Isabela towns.
Rains dumped by Ofel inundated the watersheds in Nueva Vizcaya and Ifugao, prompting the operator of the Magat Dam to release water as a precautionary measure to ease the water elevation in its reservoir, said Saturnino Tenedor, chief of Magat Dam’s instrumentation section.
In Aurora, landslides triggered by Ofel stranded since Friday night more than a hundred vehicles along the Pantabangan-Canili Road, an official of the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said on Saturday.
The three landslides-stricken segments of the road spanning kilometer 37 and km 257 were all in Maria Aurora town, according to PDRRMC head Elson Egargue. He said the PDRRMC provided food to some of the stranded motorists.
In Laguna, the low-lying town of Siniloan was flooded again due to heavy rains, prompting another evacuation by those who had returned home barely a week after staying at a temporary shelter for almost two months when monsoon rains submerged the town in August.
Vinia Tadiosa of the municipal Department of Social Welfare and Development said it had only been a week since the evacuees staying at the Siniloan Central School building returned home when continuous heavy downpours inundated the Siniloan River to spilling level.
Relief packs given out
She said there was widespread flooding, particularly in three villages and the major roads in the town center.
In Oriental Mindoro, Gov. Alfonso Umali Jr. distributed 3,000 packs of relief goods to evacuees in the towns of Baco, Naujan, Bansud, Bongabong, Mansalay and Bulalacao after the province was placed under a state of calamity due to floods.
With reports from Mar S. Arguelles, Inquirer Southern Luzon; Romulo Ponte and Madonna Virola, Inquirer Southern Luzon; Villamor Visaya Jr., Inquirer Northern Luzon, and Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central Luzon; AFP and AP