NDRRMC keeps ‘Yolanda’ death toll at 151 as communication lines down
MANILA, Philippines — Even the main operations center of the primary state agency tasked to coordinate disaster response and relief efforts is feeling the brunt of “supertyphoon Yolanda” (international name Haiyan).
Located some 900 kilometers away from the typhoon’s wrath, the headquarters of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City admitted on Sunday, it could not give an accurate report count on the loss of lives and properties in typhoon-hit areas because of damaged communications systems.
The council could not also verify the report of a local police official that at least 10,000 people perished in Leyte province alone, its spokesman, Major Rey Balido, said.
“If you’re asking me about the estimated damage and the realistic figures on the casualties, I cannot give you anything on that yet,” Balido told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
Asked if the NDRRMC could give an initial assessment of the extent of damages that Yolanda wrought, he said: “I don’t think we can do that now. We don’t even know the real number of casualties yet.”
“We’re really having difficulties contacting local disaster risk reduction and management offices. We don’t know the real situation in the areas where we don’t have line of communications,” he added.
Balido said while military units had already reached some of the devastated towns, they were unable to send the information they had gathered.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) said it could not ascertain if 10,000 people had really died in Leyte during the onslaught of the typhoon as reported by the Eastern Visayas police director, Chief Supt. Elmer Soria.
Senior Supt. Reuben Theodore Sindac, PNP spokesperson, surmised Soria’s information may have been “based on loose talks” by political leaders in the province.
“We can neither confirm nor deny that information. We cannot even contact our troops there,” Sindac said.
He reiterated that only the NDRRMC and its local units were authorized to provide details on casualties and damages during disasters.
In its latest advisory on Sunday, the NDRRMC said 151 persons were confirmed dead, much less than the reports gathered by different media groups and the Philippine Red Cross, which said the fatalities could reach over 1,200.
The council said 23 persons were injured and five were reported missing.
“Most of the fatalities died due to drowning after seawater inundated many coastal communities as the powerful winds brought by the typhoon triggered storm surges,” Balido said.
Yolanda, one of the most powerful weather disturbances ever recorded, affected a total of 982,252 families composed of close to 4.5 million individuals in 36 provinces in Calabarzon, Mimaropa, Bicol, Western Visayas, Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Northern Mindanao, Southern Mindanao and Caraga regions.
The NDRRMC said 3,480 houses were damaged while 18 roads and a bridge were affected by the 25th weather disturbance to hit the country this year.
It said the typhoon also destroyed P7.2 million worth of infrastructure and agricultural products, but the figure only covered Calapan City, Oriental Mindoro and Dinagat Island.