Dinagat Islands

As sun rises over Mindanao, isolated Dinagat calls for help

Bobby Lagsa
As sun rises over Mindanao, isolated Dinagat calls for help

Photo courtesy of Dinagat Island Provincial Information Officer Jeff Crisostomo

Photo courtesy of Dinagat Island Provincial Information Officer Jeff Crisostomo

'Dinagat Islands has been leveled to the ground by Typhoon Odette,' says Governor Arlene Bag-ao

CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – As the sun rose over Mindanao on Saturday, December 18, the extent of the damage left behind by Typhoon Odette (Rai) became clearer.

The destruction Odette caused on Dinagat Islands could surpass the devastation caused by Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), one of the most powerful tropical cyclones on record and the most destructive in 2013.

“Our landscape in the aftermath is reminiscent of, if not worse than, when Yolanda hit our province,” Dinagat Governor Arlene Bag-ao said on Saturday.

The typhoon made its second landfall in Cagdianao, Dinagat Island, at 3:10 pm, less than two hours after unleashing its fury on neighboring Siargao Island in Surigao del Norte.

Odette bombarded Dinagat with heavy rain and sustained winds with an intensity of 195 kilometers per hour. Brief bursts of wind reached up to 240 km/h, tearing down Dinagat’s communication lines, uprooting trees, lifting roofs, and wrecking houses. 

Landslides, fallen trees, and debris made roads impassable. 

Dinagat, like the world-famous surfing destination Siargao, had been isolated since Thursday afternoon, December 16, after Odette destroyed its telecommunications infrastructure.

The province has been groping in the dark for two days already after it lost electricity.

The governor sent a small group out of the island to seek help. One of them, capitol spokesman Jeff Crisostomo, said they traveled six hours to Agusan del Sur province on Friday, December 17, just to find a mobile phone signal and call for help.

Crisostomo relayed Bag-ao’s message through a Facebook post past midnight on Saturday: “Dinagat Islands has been leveled to the ground by Typhoon Odette. We survived. We have yet to establish communication and access among the seven municipalities to know the extent of the damage.”

Bag-ao gave a partial but clearer picture of the Dinagat devastation: Hospitals were damaged to the point that some were rendered inoperable; capitol buildings and houses were destroyed; the supply of potable water was disrupted, and people were already getting hungry.

“The fields and boats of our farmers and fisherfolk have been decimated. Most of our commercial and cargo vessels, in spite of taking all necessary precautions, are now unsuitable for sea voyages, effectively cutting us off from the rest of the country,” Bag-ao added.

She said the capitol has yet to count the number of casualties.

Bag-ao said: “So far, early preparation by our communities has ensured our survival. However, we have lost our homes. Walls and roofs were torn and blown off…. We have a dwindling supply of food and water. Electricity and telecommunications are down. This is why we urgently and humbly ask for everyone’s help.”

Bag-ao said the capitol was establishing key points for assistance while it works on restoring direct communication lines.

Dinagat, she said, needs food, potable water, more temporary shelters, fuel, hygiene kits, and medical supplies.

“We need assistance in restoring electricity, running water, and telecommunications,” read part of Bag-ao’s appeal for help. “We may have survived, but we cannot do the same in the coming days because of our limited capacities as an island province. Through your help, we will be able to rise again. Thank you so much.” – Rappler.com