MANILA—Super-typhoon Mina (international name: Nanmadol) left at least 16 people dead after hitting the Philippines, and the toll is expected to rise as hopes of finding those missing fade, the civil defense chief said on Monday.
Over 61,000 people have been evacuated from their homes after Nanmadol, the strongest storm to hit the country this year, lashed the northern edge of the main island of Luzon at the weekend, causing landslides and floods.
Most of the 16 killed were buried in landslides, including two children in northern Baguio who were killed in an avalanche of rubbish at the city dump, said civil defence operations chief Benito Ramos.
Eight other people are still missing across the country, feared washed away at sea, in raging rivers, or buried under rubbish, he told AFP.
“The missing are most likely dead but we are still searching for them, it is unlikely they are still alive after two or three days,” he said.
Ramos said the dead and missing in garbage dumps were scavengers who made their living foraging for items to salvage, despite the risk that storms could cause the mountain of trash to cascade down upon them.
The problem is widespread in the impoverished Philippines, where people refuse to leave dangerous areas because they need to scratch out a living, he said.
“We know which areas get flooded, which areas are landslide-prone. Every time there is a calamity like the storm, these areas always get flooded then we evacuate the people but afterwards, they come back.”
Large parts of northern Luzon still remain without power after Mina hit with gusts of up to 230 kmh starting on Saturday, the civil defense office added.
The typhoon weakened after clipping Luzon and has moved toward Taiwan and China.
However, the storm is still affecting weather patterns in the Philippines, bringing rain to large parts of Luzon, the government weather station said.
Meanwhile, the Cagayan provincial disaster risk reduction and management council (PDRRMC) said the province lost P882 million worth of crops and fish. Damage to roads, bridges and irrigation facilities was pegged at P21.3 million.
More than 500 houses were damaged in Iguig, Santa Teresita, Baggao and Amulung towns, said Edna Junio, provincial social welfare officer.
In the town of Gonzaga, which took a direct hit from the typhoon, Mayor Carlito Pentecostes Jr. placed the damage to rice crops at at least P68.5 million and to corn at P19 million.
Swirling wind and raging floodwaters also destroyed irrigation canals in the town, he said.
In Ilocos Norte, PDRRMC reports said the province lost P45 million worth of palay and other crops, while damage to public infrastructure was pegged at more than P110 million.
Governor Imee Marcos went to Batac City and Paoay town on Monday to assess the damage.
In Barangay (village) Masintoc in Paoay, at least 11 houses were damaged when whirlwinds swept through the village. Five houses in Barangay Rayuray in Batac City were also damaged.
“We are puzzled with the number of mini-tornados that struck the province as a result of Typhoon Mina. We need to know what caused them so that our people could prepare when another typhoon comes,” Marcos said.
On Saturday, tornados destroyed houses and uprooted trees in Sarrat and Laoag City.
Marcos said residents were caught unprepared with Mina after the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) initially reported that it would not cross Ilocos Norte.
“But it was not entirely Pagasa’s fault because Mina was sucked in by the southwest monsoon and compounded by monsoon rains and high tide that brought so much amount of rain,” she said.
Heavy flooding was reported in 16 towns, including Laoag and Batac cities, prompting the provincial board to declare a state of calamity on Sunday.
“We really need the support of the national government to rehabilitate the province,” Marcos said.
In Benguet, prices of vegetables increased by as much as 30 percent due to low supply after landslides blocked roads leading to the farms, La Trinidad Mayor Gregorio Abalos Jr. said.
These farms provide Metro Manila’s daily supply of salad vegetables.
Citing Monday’s trading post records, Abalos said cabbage was sold for P25.26 a kilogram, while broccoli was sold for P15.25 a kg.
He said onion leeks went by as much as P80 a kg; celery, P40.45 a kg; Baguio beans, P7 a kg; sweet peas, P100 a kg; and potatoes, P17.22 a kg.
Sections of Halsema Highway, which links vegetable farms in Benguet and Mt. Province, were closed on Saturday and Sunday. Traders have been transporting vegetables using porters, who would cross through landslides to reach vegetable trucks headed for La Trinidad.
Landslides blocked several roads in Mt. Province, Apayao and Kalinga.
Kennon Road, the shortest route to Baguio City, remained closed on Monday due to occasional rock slides.
The region experienced strong rains on Monday, causing the landslides, the OCD said.
The rains that fell at 8 a.m. on Monday had raised the water levels of Ambuklao Dam to 751.18 meters above sea level, prompting its operator to open four gates to release water. Ambuklao’s spilling level is 752 masl.
Neighboring Binga Dam had 568.92 masl in its reservoir, prompting operators to open four gates. Its spilling level is 575 masl.
In Pangasinan, high tide worsened the flooding in Dagupan City, where 10 villages went under less than a meter of water on Monday.
Floodwaters from adjoining towns flow to this city before draining into the Lingayen Gulf.
Avenix Arenas, spokesperson of the Pangasinan PDRRMC, said the water level at the San Roque Dam on Monday was 265.86 masl.
Arenas said the PDRRMC would start releasing water at a level of 280 masl.
In San Fabian town, residents of Barangay Binday along the Bued River left the village on Saturday as heavy current started sweeping away houses and farms there.
But this was not new to residents of Barangay Binday as the river has been eroding its banks since the 1970s.
“This was already a problem here when I was a child, and up to now that I am getting old. Hopefully I don’t die with this problem still unsolved,” said San Fabian agriculturist Juan Juguilon Jr., a resident of Binday.
In La Union, provincial agriculturist Imelda Sannadan said more than 2,000 hectares of rice fields in the province were submerged by floodwaters.
These farms are in the towns of Burgos, Santol, Pugo, Tubao, Bacnotan, Balaoan, Bangar, Luna and San Juan.
Ranny Ipac, La Union PDRRMC chief, said flooding was reported in coastal and riverside towns of Agoo, Sto. Tomas, Tubao, Bauang and Aringay.
A bridge connecting Agoo and Tubao towns was closed to traffic after a river there overflowed.
“Super-typhoon” is a term adopted by the Hong Kong Observatory in 2009 to refer to typhoons with winds of at least 185 kilometers (115 miles) an hour.
An average of 20 storms and typhoons, many of them deadly, hit the Philippines annually. The last deadly storms, Nock-ten and Muifa, left at least 70 dead when they hit in July.—Reports from Vincent Cabreza, Melvin Gascon, Cristina Arzadon, Yolanda Sotelo, Marla Viray and Charles Keith, Inquirer Northern Luzon