Ormoc still isolated; Gomez appeals for help
MANILA, Philippines – Ormoc City in Leyte continues to be inaccessible by land a day after Typhoon Yolanda left the country.
The main highway from Tacloban City, the capital of Leyte, leading to Ormoc, is still impassable as of Sunday afternoon, November 10, Leyte 4th district Rep Lucy Torres-Gomez told Rappler. It remains uncertain when clearing operations would be completed.
This means relief goods for Ormoc that are being sent to Tacloban have no way of reaching the city by land. The only way to deliver relief services would be via helicopters or boats.
For now, there are still food supplies in Ormoc and looting is not yet a problem, unlike in the neighboring city Tacloban, according to Gomez. But help has to come soon, she added.
"The latest information I got is that they have supplies but these would not last them a week anymore," Gomez said. "Relief efforts should be in Ormoc by then."
Like in most places hardest hit by Yolanda, power in Ormoc continues to be down while communication lines are intermittent. Gomez said she was only able to speak to contacts on the ground who have generators.
"The situation there is very bad," Gomez said. "The entire city is devastated. Homes are damaged and it doesn't matter whether they're sturdy. Entire roads are gone, shanties across coastal areas are totally damaged."
It's not just Ormoc that is affected. Other coastal municipalities in the 4th district of Leyte, including Palompon, Merida, Albuera, Matag-ob and Isabel, were devastated.
"I was speaking to my sister," Gomez said. "She said this is even worse than 1991 in terms of property damage. In this case, it doesn't matter whether you are rich or poor. Your house is as badly damaged as the next person."
Equipped with lessons learned from the 1991 Ormoc flashflood tragedy that claimed the lives of at least 8,000 people, Ormoc and nearby towns were prepared this time around.
"We had ample time to prepare given all the information on TV, on the radio about the storm," Gomez said. "What we were not prepared for was the intensity of the typhoon. Unlike in Tacloban, it was not water but the wind that damaged properties."
As of Sunday, at least 6 fatalities were recorded in the town of Palompon, Gomez said. Most of them were residents who refused to leave their homes even after the mayor asked residents from all 50 barangays in the municipality to evacuate to safer ground.
The lawmaker's contacts on the ground also estimate between 15 to 17 people were killed in Ormoc.
With "thousands" homeless, Gomez said Ormoc and nearby towns are in need of tents, blankets, rice and ready-to-eat food. Also needed are candles and tetanus shots.
"Right now efforts are concentrated in Tacloban because they are the worst hit in terms of lives lost," Gomez said. "But I am also appealing to everyone. We do need help also and I reiterate and preferably it would be in the form of tents, blankets and food items."
Gomez said she had planned on going to Ormoc via Tacloban on Saturday, November 9, but decided against it since the highway is still impassable. She said she is planning to take a chopper from Cebu to the city on Monday, November 11. - Rappler.com
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