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21 dead, says Red Cross exec

/ 01:39 AM December 09, 2014

MANILA, Philippines—At least 21 people were reported dead, many of them drowned as flood waters rose in Borongan, the main town in Eastern Samar province, where Typhoon “Ruby” (international name: Hagupit) made its first landfall, the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) said on Monday.

“We have confirmed reports that 21 people died in Eastern Samar, 16 of them in Borongan,” Gwendolyn Pang, PNRC secretary general, said.

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The Inquirer reported Monday that 10 people died as Ruby crossed the Visayas on Saturday night and Sunday: seven in Northern Samar and Eastern Samar and three in Iloilo province.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) confirmed only two dead and three injured.

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Taken off list

Government officials struck three people off the list of fatalities, saying their deaths were not related to Typhoon Ruby.

Left on the list were a 4-month-old girl in Calbayog City, Samar; an elderly couple in Sulat town, Eastern Samar; two in Cebu, one in Dolores town in Eastern Samar, one in Iloilo, and one in Catarman, Northern Samar.

Ruby, the strongest typhoon to hit the Philippines this year, proved to be not as destructive as Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan), which left 6,300 people dead, thousands injured or missing and tens of thousands homeless.

Early preparations, including the evacuation of a million people from danger zones saved many lives this time.

Church leaders said prayers as well as preparedness helped save many communities from great damage.

Tents destroyed

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In Tacloban City, Leyte province, the 200 families living in tents for more than a year since Yolanda have something to be thankful for after Ruby.

Since Ruby’s strong winds flattened the tents in San Jose district, the city government would give priority to transferring the families to “transitional houses.”

Families living in bunkhouses, however, would have to return to the bunkhouses even if these were damaged during the typhoon.

Those living in bunkhouses and tents were among the 17,000 families who moved to 26 evacuation centers in Tacloban—a decision that saved their lives.

The strong winds of Ruby destroyed the tents and the bunkhouses. But no one was hurt since the occupants were already in evacuation centers when Ruby struck on Saturday night.

A day after Ruby lashed Tacloban, Gemma Fabi, 32, of Barangay 89 in San Jose district, returned to find her tent on the ground.

“We have nowhere to go,” said the mother of three children. She lost a daughter, Gemmarose, during Yolanda.

Another resident, Sherelyn Pedrosa, 38, and eight months pregnant, said she was hoping that the city government would now give her family a permanent house that could withstand a strong typhoon.

She said she didn’t want to use the old tent as temporary shelter again after staying there for more than a year since Yolanda hit Tacloban on Nov. 8, 2013.

Moving this week

Idelbrando Bernadas, City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (CDRRMC) officer, said the 200 families were given priority in moving to transitional houses in Barangay (village) Cabalawan, about 13 kilometers north of the city center.

He said the families, who were staying in different evacuation centers, would be transferred before the week was over.

The transitional houses—which has a floor area of 40 square meters—are made of nipa thatch and coconut lumber.

Ready for occupancy

Bernadas said the transitional houses were ready for occupancy by Yolanda survivors who had been affected by Ruby.

When told of the promise, Pedrosa and Fabi said they hoped they would indeed move to the transitional houses.

“We are tired of living in a tent that is no longer livable because it is worn out and has lots of holes,” Fabi said.

Seventeen bunkhouses in Caibaan, Sagkahan, were also damaged by Ruby but the occupants would not be moved to transitional houses.

Instead, they will go back to the bunkhouses once repairs are done, Bernadas said.

Domingo Eraya, 48, camp leader at one bunkhouse site, said the repair was being undertaken by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

“They provided the materials and about 40 men were hired to do the repair works,” Eraya said.

The workers, who are paid P300 by IOM under a cash-for-work program, are expected to finish the repairs in two days.

Unwilling to return

But the occupants were not enthusiastic about returning to the temporary shelters hastily constructed by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) last year.

Marilyn Regneter, 43, said she didn’t feel safe in the bunkhouse, which was made of light materials that would not stand the power of another storm.

“We are already tired living in the bunkhouse. It was destroyed by Ruby—proof that it is not really resilient to typhoons. Hopefully, our government will really think fast and transfer us to a permanent shelter,” Regneter said.

Regneter and 200 other families sought refuge at the nearby Chinese cemetery as Ruby lashed Tacloban City on Saturday.

The weather began to improve in the Visayas on Monday and the Philippine Coast Guard allowed the resumption of ferry trips on the Cebu-Dumaguete, Cebu-Tagbilaran and Cebu-Cagayan de Oro routes.

The Cebu-Ormoc route and all routes to Bicol remained suspended because of gale warnings.

Commander Armand Balilo, spokesman for the Coast Guard, said there were no maritime accidents as Ruby crossed the Visayas.—Reports from Jerry E. Esplanada in Manila; Joey A. Gabieta, Inquirer Visayas; and wires

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TAGS: Gwendolyn Pang, Philippines, Red Cross, Ruby, toll, typhoons, Weather
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