BACOLOD CITY, Philippines – Typhoon Odette (Rai) claimed the lives of 13 people, including a 13-year-old girl, in Sipalay City, Negros Occidental, and officials fear the casualty count could still rise given the number of missing persons.
As of 5 pm Saturday, December 18, the 13 fatalities have already been identified by their families, according to Sipalay City police chief Major James Latayon.
The reported deaths in Sipalay, a coastal city facing the Panay Gulf and the Sulu Sea, brought the total death toll in Negros Occidental to 21.
Salvador Mesa III of the city’s Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office said in a media interview that 10 of the fatalities drowned from the raging flash floods that overwhelmed the coastal communities, while two died after they were pinned down by the toppled trees.
Another fatality, a 78-year-old woman, died of hypothermia after their roof was ripped off by the strong winds, he said. “She wasn’t able to evacuate because she’s already old,” he added.
He also said that of the 50 persons that were initially reported missing, 26 have already been rescued. “They were able to save themselves by holding on to trees and finding upper ground,” he said.
He said 24 are still missing, while 30 suffered injuries.
All of the city’s 17 barangays were affected by Odette, while 7,000 houses were reportedly destroyed. That number is almost as much as the total provincial tally reported earlier on Saturday.
More than 3,000 have also evacuated their homes, Mesa said.
The provincial government released on Saturday afternoon a tally showing that 93,696 residents of the province evacuated to more than 500 evacuation centers to escape Odette’s wrath.
The typhoon that battered the locality, south of Bacolod City, early Friday, December 17, triggered flash floods that left residents without power and communication signal for two days now.
All of the power lines were down, Mesa said, adding that they were advised by the electric cooperative that power restoration could take two to four months.
Latayon said floodwaters have already subsided and that clearing operations are ongoing. He added that the main roads are already passable.
Sipalay City, which is four hours away from the province’s capital city Bacolod, is known as the “Jewel of the South” for its pristine beaches.
Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson said they’re still waiting for the confirmation of the number of casualties and missing in Sipalay.
Hinobaan town, right next to Sipalay, also sustained floods and damage but did not report any casualties, according to local station Radio Alagad 100.5 FM.