Typhoon Labuyo: 4 dead; P69-M houses, P438-M crops damaged

KD Suarez
(UPDATE) Authorities fear many more people may have died after Labuyo swept across Luzon Monday; Typhoon now on its way to China

Typhoon Utor 15 hours prior to landfall, August 11, 2013. NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE/EOSDIS MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC

MANILA, Philippines (4th UPDATE) — Typhoon Labuyo (international codename Utor) has left at least 4 people, 6 injured, and 11 missing, while P69.2 million worth of properties in Luzon were destroyed, the government said on Tuesday afternoon, August 13.

Labuyo left Philippine Area of Responsibility early Tuesday morning. 

Aurora province surffered the worst. A total of P43 million worth of properties were damaged, according to an update from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).

All means of communication in the province are also down due to power outage and damaged cell sites, added the report. 

Meanwhile, the agriculture department said P438 million worth of crops were destroyed in the Cordillera Administrative Region, Cagayan Valley, and Central Luzon. Region II sustained the most agricultural damage valued at P387.6 million.  

The typhoon affected rice, corn, banana, and vegetable crops. Corn suffered the greatest damage, valued at P320 million.

A total of 6 residents of Ifugao and Baguio were reported injured while 11 are missing in Camarines Norte, Pangasinan, Isabela, and Batanes. 

The four who died were:

  • Joemar Salicon, 22, who died after he was buried by debris while cleaning a canal in Irisan, Benguet
  • Reynaldo dela Cruz, 53, who drowned around 2 pm in Brgy Domang, Dupax del Sur, Nueva Vizcaya
  • Alvin Sesante, who died in a flashflood in Cebu
  • Nelson Fuentes, who also died in a Cebu flashflood.

The 11 missing people due to the typhoon include 9 fishermen reported missing in Camarines Norte and Bolinao, Pangasinan. The two others are:

  • Benny Almario: Reported missing in Isabela
  • Julio Balanoba: Left Babuyan Island Monday, August 11, for Batanes, but did not arrive at his destination

A woman was also swept away as she stood crying for help atop her house that was carried away by a swollen river. An ABS-CBN crew filmed the woman as she was swallowed up by the river.

“The community was evacuated before the onslaught of the typhoon but she refused to be evacuated,” said Norma Talosig, civil defense chief for the Cagayan Valley region.

The Red Cross listed a third death but gave no details.

Local rescue teams are still conducting search and rescue operations for the missing people, but their operations are limited due to gale force winds, the National Disaster Risk Reduction & Management Council (NDRRMC) said in its latest update Tuesday morning.

A total of 27,539 families, or 137,374 people, have been affected by the typhoon across 14 provinces and 3 cities in 5 regions, the NDRRMC reported as of 11 am.

Of these, 5,801 families (27,727 people) are in 83 evacuation centers across Luzon, mostly in Region III. On the other hand, 5,404 families (25,545 people) are being assisted outside evacuation centers.

In Region II and the province of Aurora alone, reported damage to property has been valued at P57.45 million: P14.33 million in agricultural damage in Region II, and P43.13 million for infrastructure and agriculture in Aurora.

The typhoon had also caused severe damage to farms in the province of Isabela, one of the country’s top rice and corn producers.

NDRRMC said a total of 2,099 houses were affected in regions 2, 3, 5, and Cordillera Administrative Region.

As of 11 am Tuesday, 25 roads and 13 bridges are affected in some form (damaged, impassable, or washed out). North and Central Luzon also reported 13 power outages and 3 incidents of communication interruptions, the NDRRMC said.

Classes are still suspended in some areas.

Stranded passengers are now down to 1,158, mostly in Western Visayas. A total of 14 vessels remain stranded in ports, while 4 took shelter from the typhoon.

3 Aurora towns devastated

Rescuers cleared landslide-choked roads on Tuesday, in an effort to reach isolated villages that were devastated by the typhoon.

“Trees have fallen down, roofs have been torn off houses, electric poles and electric towers have collapsed,” said NDRRMC spokesman Reynaldo Balido, describing chaos from coastal towns to mountain villages hundreds of kilometers (miles) apart.

One of the top priorities for rescuers were 3 towns in Aurora province that were in Labuyo’s direct path when it made landfall before dawn on Monday.

Casiguran, Aurora (not the entire province as earlier stated) has been placed under a state of calamity late Monday, August 12, due to the extensive damage from the typhoon. On Tuesday, Dilasag and Dinalungan were also placed under a state of calamity.

The towns, home to about 45,000 people, were still completely cut off on Tuesday morning, according to Aurora disaster chief Elson Egargue.

He said the mayor of one of the towns, Casiguran, reported that 95% of the buildings in the town had been destroyed.

Rescuers deployed earthmoving equipment on Tuesday to clear the national highway leading to the 3 towns, which was blocked in several areas by landslides, floods and fallen tree trunks, Egargue said.

However Egargue and Balido said officials had not reported any major deaths, giving cause for optimism.

“These towns are used to typhoons so we hope they have become more resilient and avoided casualties,” Balido said.

He said the national disaster council had dispatched a helicopter to Casiguran on Tuesday to assess the damage and check for casualties.

Gerardo Noveras, the governor of Aurora, said on ABS-CBN television that the road to Casiguran should be re-opened on Tuesday afternoon.

With gusts of 200 kilometers per hour just before it made landfall in Aurora, authorities said they feared many more people may have died after Labuyo swept across coastal and mountainous regions of Luzon.

“It looks like the death and damage toll is going to go up… with wind like this, you can expect a lot of damage,” the NDRRMC’s Francis Rodriguez told Agence France-Presse.

Rodriguez said authorities would likely not receive reports from isolated villages that were in the typhoon’s direct path until Tuesday.

This year’s strongest globally

Typhoon Labuyo exited the country late Monday, after passing through the Philippines as this year’s strongest recorded typhoon, bringing intense rain and strong winds.

Prior to landfall, the US Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center and the Hong Kong Observatory (HKO) both labeled Labuyo/Utor as a super typhoon, while the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) warned the typhoon was to become “violent.”

Weather Underground meteorologist Jeff Masters labeled the typhoon as “Earth’s most dangerous tropical cyclone so far in 2013,” reporting it as equivalent to a Category 4 tropical cyclone in the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale used in the Western Hemisphere.

Under the said scale, a Category 4 storm brings “catastrophic damage.”

Labuyo superseded Typhoon Huaning (international codename Soulik) as this year’s most intense tropical cyclone globally, Masters noted.

The typhoon’s international codename, Utor, is the Marshallese word for squall line, an area of thunderstorms forming due to a cold front.

Labuyo is now over the South China Sea on its way to the general area of southeastern China.

Authorities in Hong Kong said early Monday they were preparing for Labuyo to potentially dump heavy rains there this week. The Hong Kong Observatory raised a stage one typhoon alert as of 9 am Monday. Stage 10 is its highest-level alert. – With reports from Carmela Fonbuena and Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com