Hunger stalks typhoon-hit areas in the Philippines

A boy, whose relatives are among the evacuees staying at the People’s Gymnasium in Tuguegarao City, is left alone near a section of the gym where sacks of relief goods are kept.
PHOTO: Philippine Daily Inquirer/ Asia News Network

Residents in the coastal villages of Gattaran town in Cagayan province are asking for help, after their houses were destroyed by storm surges whipped up by Super Typhoon 'Lawin' (international name: Haima) last week.

Jeffrey Tamayo, Gattaran disaster risk reduction and management officer, said relief efforts have not reached the remote coastal communities and residents of Bolos Point are asking that food packs be sent there.

"They have lost their homes and they are now running out of food," he said.

Storm surges

The problem of Bolos Point was the first official confirmation of reports that 5-metre high storm surges (the equivalent of a two-story building) slammed the eastern coastline of Luzon mainland.

Aside from Bolos Point, two other coastal villages on the Pacific Ocean side of Cagayan are vulnerable to storm surges: Baguio Point in Peñablanca town, where Lawin made landfall, and Valley Cove in Baggao town.

Bolos Point (population: 800) is located on the eastern shoreline of Gattaran facing the Pacific Ocean. Of its 12 sub-villages, 10 are on the coastline, Tamayo said.

It is isolated from the rest of the town. Residents take a three-hour boat ride to the San Vicente port in Santa Ana town and another two hours of travel by land to reach the town centre.

"We are thankful that there were no casualties, but the damage to the houses was massive," Tamayo said, quoting a report from village chief Apolinario Unarte.

"We have not received any report from the coastal areas because we have lost contact with DRRM officials there," said Jae Cabauatan, officer in charge of the Office of Civil Defence in Cagayan Valley.

Two helicopters from the military's Northern Luzon Command will be airlifting today food packs for residents of Bolos Point.

Cabauatan said they have yet to receive damage reports from the coastal towns of Maconacon, Palanan and Divilacan, all in Isabela province where one person was earlier reported killed.

On Tuesday, Cagayan and Abra province were placed under a state of calamity.

In Ilocos Norte, Governor Imee Marcos asked Malacañang to redesign the province's dike systems upstream of the Solsona Madongan flood control project to protect some 220,000 people living in Laoag City and 10 Ilocos Norte towns.

Lawin destroyed almost 1 billion Philipppine pesos worth of crops and infrastructure in the province. A series of aerial inspections also noted silted river beds and outdated dike systems which were beyond repair.

Typhoon Haima kills at least 8 in Philippines

  • One of the most powerful typhoons to ever hit the Philippines killed at least eight people on Thursday as ferocious gales and landslides destroyed tens of thousands of homes.
  • Super Typhoon Haima struck late on Wednesday night with winds similar to those of catastrophic Haiyan in 2013, which was then the strongest storm to strike the disaster-prone Southeast Asian archipelago and claimed more than 7,350 lives.
  • Haima then roared across mountain and farming communities of the northern regions of the main island of Luzon overnight, causing widespread destruction and killing at least eight people, authorities said.
  • "We were frightened because of the strong winds. There was no power, no help coming," Jovy Dalupan, 20, told AFP as she sheltered at nightfall on the side of a highway in San Pablo, a badly damaged town of 20,000 people in Isabela province.
  • Dalupan, her two young daughters and husband, were forced to flee to the highway along with their neighbours during the height of the storm when their shanty homes, made of plywood, were ripped apart.
  • Haima hit coastal towns facing the Pacific Ocean with sustained winds of 225 kilometres (140 miles) an hour, and wind gusts of up to 315 kilometres.
  • It weakened overnight as it rammed into giant mountain ranges and by Thursday morning had passed over the western edge of Luzon and into the South China Sea, heading towards southern China.
  • The governor of Cagayan, a province of 600,000 people neighbouring Isabela where Haima made landfall, said the entire region was without power as he reported widespread destruction.
  • "Almost every house here has been damaged," governor Manuel Mamba told ABS CBN television.
  • President Rodrigo Duterte said on Wednesday night all possible preparations had been made for Haima, with tens of thousands of people evacuated, but he still struck an ominous tone.
  • Authorities said two of those killed, aged 16 and 17, were buried in a landslide while sleeping in a house in Ifugao, a mountainous area that is home to stunning rice terraces that are listed by the United Nations as a World Heritage site
  • Two other people were buried in a shanty in another mountainous region, the disaster risk council's division in the northern Philippines reported.
  • At least eight people had been confirmed dead, according to Edgar Allan Tabell, director of the national government's disaster information coordinating centre in Manila.
  • But with authorities in many devastated areas still unable to report back because of power and communication lines being cut, the death toll was expected to rise.
  • The Philippine islands are often the first major landmass to be hit by storms that generate over the Pacific Ocean.
  • The Southeast Asian archipelago endures about 20 major storms each year, many of them deadly.
  • The most powerful and deadliest was Haiyan, which destroyed entire towns in heavily populated areas of the central Philippines in November 2013.
  • The national capital Manila is about 350 kilometres south of where Haima struck land.
  • However the city, with about 12 million people, was not affected, hit only by moderate winds overnight and little rain.
  • Haima was the second typhoon to hit the northern Philippines in a week, after Sarika struck on Sunday claiming at least one life and leaving three people missing.