SURIGAO DEL NORTE, Philippines – At least 15 people died when Typhoon Odette (Rai) hit the Philippine surfing capital of Siargao Island, but the death toll could rise further, the governor of Surigao del Norte said , Francisco Matugas, Sunday December 19.
It was the first time Siargao’s death toll had been known since Odette unleashed her fury on the island in the Caraga region, the first in a series of landings that began on Thursday afternoon December 16. .
Matugas was with his wife Sol, a former governor of Surigao del Norte, stuck in San Isidro town hall when the typhoon made landfall.
They were there to oversee evacuation and rescue operations until Odette started pounding the island at 1:30 p.m.
âWe sought refuge at the town hall of San Isidro,â said Matugas. “It’s my second life now.”
In the town of General Luna, a tear-eyed mayor, Cecilia Rusillon, told this correspondent on Friday, December 17: âPlease help me tell the world that General Luna is now in his worst. situation. We have been hit hard.
It took a while for his message to get through. Siargao’s telecommunications infrastructure has been down since Thursday afternoon.
The Civil Protection Office has set up a Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) to transmit and receive data, voice and video signals, enabling this report to be sent.
The world famous island has no electricity and lacks clean water, food and medicine.
“The island is now unrecognizable,” said former climate change commissioner Lucille Sering.
Sering took a helicopter to his native island on Saturday, December 18, then toured the town of General Luna on a borrowed motorcycle to assess the damage.
âI think we need clean water first,â Sering said.
The typhoon flattened communities and destroyed vegetation.
âWe need shelter now,â Del Carmen Mayor Prosefina Coro told Rappler.
Many tourists found themselves stranded on the island, and some of them were among 44 people flown on Saturday afternoon, Siargao airport manager Josefina NuÃ±ez said.
The plane arrived with relief supplies, said Len Coro, who helped organize the rescue operation.
Philippine Airlines (PAL) also landed a plane with relief supplies at Siargao airport on Sunday afternoon.
Stranded tourists were in good spirits as the larger PAL plane meant many could leave the typhoon-stricken island.
Nelson Calipes, owner of the Mama Coco resto-bar in General Luna, was ecstatic because he was on his way to Manila.
A day after the typhoon hit, his group offered people free food and drink and organized a community pantry.
Now people are hungrier. Looting has been reported.
April Cuadra of Balay Yuhom said the establishment lost food and drink to thieves on Friday.
Nilo Reyes, head of General Luna’s municipal disaster risk reduction and management office, said they were doing their best to help “but we are also victims”.
He said several local government rescuers lost their homes.
A day after landing, the roads from Dapa to General Luna were blocked by fallen trees, utility poles and debris. These roads did not become accessible until around 4 p.m. after massive clearing operations carried out by local government agents, villagers and private groups.
Dr TJ Manalang, head of General Luna’s municipal health office, said they had to recover some of the medical supplies from his destroyed office.
âWe need oral medicine, medical supplies,â Manalang said.
They set up a makeshift clinic in the town mayor’s house.
âA lot of people have been injured and injured. We ran out of medical supplies. We need a lot of it, âhe said. âRappler.com