CEBU CITY, Philippines – The Visayan Electric Company (VECO) returned power to three hospitals in this city on Saturday evening, December 18, hours after they promised Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia that they would try to restore electricity to other cleared areas in the province.
At around 8 pm, a VECO official turned a switch that returned power to the Cebu City Medical Center, the Chong Hua Hospital, and Perpetual Succour .
Earlier in the day, Garcia met with VECO officials, public works contractors, and engineering, health, and relief teams to push for crucial components of the province’s disaster response to Typhoon Odette (Rai).
VECO told her they would also power the Cebu provincial capitol building, where Garcia is housing evacuees.
Garcia, who visited the hardest hit southern towns in the province before the multi-sectoral meeting, also directed contractors to speed up road-clearing operations to facilitate the delivery of food and health needs to over 12,000 weather evacuees from coastal barangays and landslide-prone areas.
During the meeting, the governor also got a swift response from VECO when she stressed that power is crucial to normalize business and provide reprieve to the 3 million residents of the province’s 44 towns and six component cities.
Garcia said VECO was “optimistic” about partially restoring electricity in cleared areas within a week.
“I asked [that] can we do this at least, within the week. Seven days. They are optimistic about this and we will continue to follow up,” she said.
Right now, the majority of the province is without energy; Odette’s strong winds toppled electric poles in many areas. In the southern municipality of Argao, about 90% of their power lines were knocked down.
When asked if the substations will supply power to neighborhoods surrounding the hospitals, the VECO official said that they would not yet be able to do so because the power supply is limited.
“We need to focus giving supply to essential services like hospitals and water supply only for now,” he said.
According to an earlier Facebook post by the Metro Cebu Water District, they were able to resume water service to 30.46% of their franchise area, although they did not specify which areas.
The governor said VECO and the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines are augmenting their on-ground personnel with personnel from Mindanao. They will be putting up emergency towers in place of two towers destroyed by Odette.
Road access, communications
Blocked roads remain a huge hindrance to the distribution of food aid in the province. Some parts of southern Cebu are still completely blocked off, Garcia said.
Contractors and teams from the province’s engineering districts as well as the Department of Public Works and Highways in Central Visayas promised to beef up workforces working on national and other major roads.
“I also asked the contractors to coordinate with each of the mayors to help our LGUs to clear barangay roads because there are several barangays that are inaccessible as of now,” said Garcia.
While this is being done, a total of 20,000 bags of rice will be distributed among Cebu towns with the help of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, which has loaned five trucks for the province’s relief efforts.
Heavy disruption to internet and telecommunications services have also made it hard to gather data needed for planning, with only two municipalities able to transmit updated data.
The island municipality of Poro, two hours from mainland Cebu, reported no casualties despite experiencing a storm surge. There were no details about the storm surge, but the town’s report said it evacuated more than 3,000 residents.
The island barangay also reported damage to the port area, the coast guard station, the police station, and the seawall.
The municipality of Argao reported two casualties, including a minor who died when the family house collapsed due to strong winds. The other casualty was a farmer who was taking his carabao to shelter as Odette whipped the community. – Rappler.com