Typhoon Rai kills at least 109 in Philippines

Manila, Philippines | AFP | At least 109 people died after Rai’s passage through the Philippines, the worst typhoon to hit the country this year, according to official accounts on Sunday as efforts to get food and water to the devastated islands intensify.

More than 300,000 people abandoned their houses and beach hotels after Typhoon Rai devastated part of the archipelago, leaving several areas without communications and electricity service, while in other places roofs were ripped off and electricity poles downed.

Arthur Yap, the governor of Bohol, a popular tourist destination, reported that fatalities on the island totaled 73.

In the Dinagat Islands, the spokesman for the provincial delegation, Jeffrey Crisostomo, told AFP that there are ten other deaths.

With this, the total number of reported deaths rises to 109, according to official data, which confirm that Rai has been one of the deadliest typhoons to hit the Philippines in recent years.

The balance is likely to increase as government agencies begin to assess the totality of the disaster.

Typhoon Rai hit the Philippines on Thursday with winds of 195 km per hour and thousands of police, military, coast guards and firefighters are currently deployed to assist in searches and rescue in affected areas.

On Saturday the cyclone moved away moving through the South China Sea and on Sunday it was off the coast of Vietnam moving north.

Heavy machinery such as backhoes and tractors were used to help clear roads blocked by falling poles and trees.

An aerial assessment of the damage north of Bohol made it “very clear” that people have suffered a lot in terms of destroyed houses and agricultural losses, said Yap, who declared a state of emergency on the island.

For his part, Pope Francis at the end of his traditional Sunday Angelus prayer, expressed his “closeness to the people of the Philippines”, a mostly Catholic country, adding “may the Holy Child bring comfort and hope to families with more difficulties” , in reference to the approaching Christmas.

– Haiyan Reminiscences –
The typhoon also caused widespread destruction on the islands of Siargao, Dinagat and Mindanao.

Aerial images distributed by the military showed the damage in the town of General Luna, in Siargao, where there were many surfers and tourists before the Christmas period.

The images showed buildings without a roof and the floor covered in rubble.

This Sunday the tourists began to evacuate.

Dinagat Governor Arlene Bag-ao said on Saturday that the damage to the island “is reminiscent of similar or worse” than that caused by the 2013 super typhoon Haiyan.

Haiyan is the deadliest cyclone on record for the Philippines, with more than 7,300 people killed or missing.

“I saw typhoon Odette devastate the provincial capital,” Crisostomo told DZBB station, using the local name for Rai.

“There were tables as big as a person that were blown away by the onslaught of the storm,” he said.

In Surigao City, in northern Mindanao, the streets were covered with broken glass, steel roofing sheets and power lines.

Rai’s winds dropped to 150 km per hour as it advanced across the country in torrential rains, uprooting trees and destroying wooden structures.

Rai hit the Philippines late in the typhoon season, as cyclones typically form between July and October.

Scientists have warned that typhoons are becoming more powerful and stronger as a result of climate change.

The Philippines is considered one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change and receives about 20 typhoons and storms annually, some of devastating effects.

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