Manila: At least two people were confirmed dead while two others remain missing in Northern Philippines where the powerful typhoon Mangkhut wreaked havoc on Saturday.
Mangkhut, initially classified by foreign weather experts as a Category 5 hurricane, weakened as it exited the Philippines.
The typhoon, known in the Philippines as “Ompong”, was the most powerful one to hit the country in the last two years, packing maximum sustained winds of 170 kilometres per hour near the centre, and gusts of up to 260kph, as it moves westward at 25kph.
“We can say that the typhoon had largely passed, however, this is where the real work begins,” Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said in a press briefing with cabinet officials on Saturday afternoon.
The typhoon delivered powerful winds and heavy rains over much of Northern and Central Luzon as well as Metro Manila; however, it delivered its full wrath in the provinces of Cagayan, Isabela, as well as the Cordillera Administrative Region and the Ilocos Region.
Initial reports reaching Manila stated that three people died, including a mother and her 12-year-old daughter as well as a rescuer.
The family of the victims were hunkered down as the storm roared, when a landslide occurred. The father and the other children were buried in the debris but were rescued.
Two miners who had volunteered to rescue the trapped victims were still missing.
A third fatality was reported in the village of Loacan.
The miners used a backhoe for the rescue efforts, when the heavy equipment suddenly sank to the ground trapping the rescuers.
In Cagayan’s Rizal town, which was among the areas in the direct path of the typhoon in Northern Luzon’s eastern seaboard, Vice Mayor Joel Ruma told Gulf News that there were no reported deaths so far in his locality although damage to property and agriculture was extensive.
“Most of the houses sustained major damage as well as the rice fields,” he said, adding that the government’s strategy in placing people out of harm’s way played a critical role in the zero casualty record of the town during the typhoon.
“More than 700 families went for pre-emptive evacuation and everyone followed orders from authorities that included the so-called ‘adopt-a-neighbour strategy,” he said.
Likewise, he also said the national government’s decision to pre-place relief goods in the affected areas means families will have supplies even in the event that they are isolated, because of the landslides.
“We are getting by; however, what we need right now is to have the mobile phone signals restored by the service providers. This is critical for communications among the rescue workers and for informing families,” he said.
Francis Tolentino, designated by President Rodrigo Duterte to be the point man in the disaster recovery operations, said there is an increasing number of evacuees coming in.
Tolentino said government efforts to reopen the roads that were closed by the landslides in affected areas are in full swing.
Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana clarified that although some facilities, including the Tuguegarao Airport sustained damage, it was still open for humanitarian services.
“The facilities are damaged but the runway itself is OK,” Lorenzana said.
Typhoon Mangkhut left the Philippine area of responsibility at 5pm on Saturday. All typhoon warning signals in the affected areas are expected to be lowered.