5 Visayas provinces under state of calamity
Five of six provinces in Eastern Visayas region were placed by their respective provincial boards under a state of calamity as Tropical Storm “Urduja” (international name: Kai-tak) swept through central Philippines, dumping heavy rains that triggered flash floods and landslides.
The declaration covered the provinces of Biliran, Leyte, Samar, Eastern Samar and Northern Samar. Only Southern Leyte province was unaffected by the storm in the region.
Reports from local governments and disaster response agencies showed that at least 47 people died in Urduja’s onslaught, with the island province of Biliran posting the highest death toll at 33. Nine people were killed in Leyte, three in Eastern Samar and two in Samar.
Although no storm-related fatality was reported in Northern Samar, heavy rains dumped by Urduja triggered floods that displaced 20,851 families, reports said.
Reports from the Eastern Visayas police said at least 18 bodies had been retrieved in Barangay Lucsoon in Naval town, Biliran. Reports gathered by the Inquirer from various agencies in the region showed that at least 27 people remained missing, 20 of them in Biliran.
But a report from Agence France-Presse (AFP), citing figures from the government’s disaster monitoring agency, said 45 others remained missing, many of them feared buried by mud avalanches that struck Biliran.
President Rodrigo Duterte, who visited Biliran on Monday, directed government agencies to continue search and rescue operations in Eastern Visayas.
The President also ordered the fast-tracking of delivery of food assistance to affected communities.
He assured officials, led by Biliran Gov. Gerardo Espina Jr., that the national government would help them.
He ordered the immediate repair of the main bridge connecting Biliran to Leyte and the rest of Eastern Visayas.
All storm signals were lowered on Tuesday as Urduja continued to move away from the country. But the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration urged the public to remain on alert for another weather disturbance brewing outside the Philippine area of responsibility.
As of Tuesday noon, the center of Urduja was estimated already outside the Philippine area of responsibility, 430 kilometers west of Palawan province. The state weather bureau, however, urged against complacency as a low pressure area 1,710 km east of Mindanao was expected to enter the Philippine area of responsibility on Wednesday.
Bornalia Nieves, a teacher at Burak National High School, said four days after Urduja hit their town, the situation remained “very hard.”
“There is still no water and power. Relief goods coming from outside Naval could not reach our town … prices of basic goods have increased,” she said.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council on Tuesday said some evacuees could be spending Christmas in evacuation centers as flooding had yet to subside in many areas in Eastern Visayas.
The Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office on Tuesday said it would release P10 million to buy medicines and water for storm victims. —With reports from Jaymee T. Gamil, Jodee A. Agoncillo, Nikko Dizon and AFP
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