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Typhoon Ompong’s trail of destruction

A policeman walks through makeshift tent shelters damaged by strong winds from Typhoon Mangkhut after it barreled across Tuguegarao city in Cagayan province.  (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

The death toll from the passage of Typhoon Ompong has been pegged at 81 after the tragic landslide in a mining community in Itogon, Benguet.

Authorities warned that the death toll could rise as rescuers from the Bureau of Fire Protection, the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, plus civilian volunteers, race to find those buried by the massive landslide.

NATIONAL REPORT

As for the parts of the Philippines hit by Typhoon Ompong, according to Situation Report No. 30 released by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) on Sept. 20, a total of 345,158 families or 1,436,997 people in 4,216 barangays within Regions 1, 2, 3, Calabarzon, Mimaropa, NCR and CAR.

The NDRRMC report said a total of 34,655 families or 139,609 people were receiving emergency assistance. Of these numbers, about 13,949 families or 54,935 people were given shelter in 390 evacuation centers.

A Philippine police officer who persuaded villagers to move to safety as Typhoon Mangkhut menacingly approached says they did not seem alarmed and refused to follow, with some smiling, a day before the powerful storm set off a huge landslide that buried dozens of the villagers. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

The NDRRMC noted that the 43 incidents, such as landslides, road slip, land subsidence and vehicular accidents, were reported in Regions MIMAROPA, V, VI and CAR as Ompong pummeled the country.

At the height of the typhoon, a total of 146 international flights, plus an additional 137 domestic flights were cancelled.

As of the NDRRMC report on Sept. 19, a total of 196 areas in Regions 1, CALABARZON, 5, 7, 9, 10, CAR and NCR experienced power interruption. The report said that Ompong adversely affected a total of 82 transmission lines in Northern and Southern Luzon. Of this number, the NDRRMC said 71 of those transmission lines have been restored.

As to flooding, 393 areas were reported adversely affected in Regions 1, 3, CALABARZON (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon or Region 4-A), and MIMAROPA  (the Mindoro provinces, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan) as of Sept. 19. As of the latest report, 88 of these areas have reported that flooding had already subsided.

DAMAGE AND ASSISTANCE

Damaged homes were pegged at 44,599. These were classified as 3,610 “totally damaged” and 40,989 as “partially damaged. These occurred in Regions 1, 2, 3 and CAR.

Residents work to repair a damaged roof due to strong winds from Typhoon Mangkhut after it barreled across Tuguegarao city in Cagayan province. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

The NDRRMC’s SITREP 30 said Ompong caused an estimated Php16,793,047,631.02 worth of damage to infrastructure and agriculture in Regions 1, 2, 3, CALABARZON , V and CAR (Cordillera Administrative Region). Damage to infrastructure was pegged at Php2,363,810 while damage to agriculture was estimated at Php14,339,237,631.02

As of this writing, the NDRRMC reported at least Php 65.3 million worth of assistance was provided to people adversely affected by Typhoon Ompong in Regions 1, 2, 3, MIMAROPA, NCR (National Capitol Region) and CAR. This assistance was provided by the Office of Civil Defense (OCD), Department of Health (DOH), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), local government units and nongovernment organizations.

STATE OF CALAMITY

To date, several provinces and cities were still under a state of calamity.

Those still under a state of calamity were the provinces of Ilocos Norte and La Union, the city of Vigan in Ilocos Sur, Luna in La Union, San Fabian in Pangasinan, the city of Iligan in Isabela, the provinces of Cagayan and Quirino, the city of Tuguegarao, Mayoyao in Ifugao, and the province of Kalinga.

AP Photo/Aaron Favila

The NDRRMC reported that a total of 38,515 families or 151,872 individuals were “pre-emptively evacuated in Regions 1, 2, 3, CALABARZON, 5, CAR and NCR.

Unfortunately, some communities chose to ignore evacuation orders. Among those who didn’t head the evacuation order were the mining community of Itogon, which led to tragic consequences.

BEGINNING

The NDRRMC operation center took official cognizance of Typhoon Ompong’s threat at 5 pm on Sept. 10 when it raised its alert level from White to Blue. The NDRRMC alert level was raised the next day at 8 a.m. from Blue to Red.

Meetings were held via video conference between relevant officials of government agencies, including the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA), Department of Transportation (DOTr), Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), National Electrification Administration (NEA), Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), Philippine National Police (PNP), Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine Information Agency (PIA), Red Cross, local disaster management councils in affected Regions,  plus corporations SMART, GLOBE and ABS-CBN.

TIMELINE

By Sept. 12, the Response Clusters for Preparedness and Response Operations were activated.

On Sept. 13 at 3 p.m., a NDRRMC briefing on Typhoon Ompong was held. This was presided by President Rodrigo Duterte.

Afterwards, relevant national, regional and local government agencies and offices continuously monitored and shared information about Typhoon Ompong’s progress. This included the release of Severe Weather Bulletins, Weather Advisories, 24-Hour Public Weather Forecasts and Gale Warnings.

From Sept. 13 to Sept. 15, the government also issued 45 Early Alert and Warning Messages.

By Sept. 13, at 11 pm, the weather bureau raised Typhoon Signal No. 2 over Isabela. By Sept. 14 at 5 am, the storm signal was raised to 3.

As Isabela was put under Storm Signal No. 3, the provinces of Batanes, Cagayan, Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Apayao, Abra, Kalinga, Mountain Province, Ifugao, La Unon, Benguet, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, Pangasinan, Aurora and Tarlac were placed under Storm Signal No. 2.

By 8 am of Sept. 14, Northern Aurora, Isabela and Cagayan were under Storm Signal No. 3.

At 11 a.m. Storm Signal No. 3 were raised in Cagayan, Apayao, Abra, Kalinga, Mountain Province, Ifugao, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino and Norther Aurora.

By 2 pm of Sept. 14, Storm Signal No.  covered Batanes, La Union, Benguet, Pangasinan, Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, Southern Aurora and Northern Zambales.

Storm Signal No. 4 was raised in the province of Cagayan and Northern Isabela by 5 pm of Sept. 14.

In Cagayan, Typhoon’s Ompong’s strength waned for a moment. The Storm Signal was reduced to just 2.

However, that respite was not to last.

By 8:25 pm of Sept. 14, Cagayan, Northern Isabela, Apayao and Abra were under Storm Signal No. 4.

While Storm Signal No. 4 were hitting those areas, Storm Signal No. 3 was raised over Batanes, Babuyan Group of Islands, Southern Isabela Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union, Kalinga, Mountain Province, Benguet, Ifuguao, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino and Norther Aurora.

At the same time, Storm Signal no. 4 covered Pangasinan, Tarlac, Nueva Ecijia, Southern Aurora, Zambales, Pampanga, Bulacan and Northern Quezon.

By Sept. 15, 12 am, an Orange Rainfall Warning was raised in Batangas.

(AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

On Sept. 15, at 1:40 am, Typhoon Ompong officially made landfall. Storm Surge Warning No. 3 were raised in Pagudpud, Burgos and Banqui in Ilocos Norte and the province of Cagayan.

A few minutes later, the area covered by Storm Surge Warning No. 3 was expanded to include Bacarra, Badoc, Currimao, Paoay, Laoag and Pasuquin in Ilocos Norte, San Pablo and Maconacon in Isabela, Caoyan, Cabugao, Cardon City, Magsingal, Narvacan and San Estaban in Ilocos Sur.

By 3: 45 am of Sept. 15, the provinces of Ilocos Norte, Cagayan, Northern Isabela, Apayao, Kalinga and the Babuyan Group of Islands were placed under Storm Signal No. 4.

Around dawn of the same day, Batanes, Southern Isabela, Ilocos Sur, La Union, Mountain Province, Benguet, Ifugao, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino and Northern Aurora were under Storm Signal No. 3 while Storm Signal No. 2 covered Pangasinan, Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, Southern Aurora, Zambales, Pampanga, Bulacan and Northern Quezon.

At 6:10 am, the weather bureau raised Red Rainfall Warning No. 3 over Zambales and Bataan while Metro Manila, Pampanga, Bulacan, Cavite and Rizal were placed under Orange Rainfall Warning No. 3.

Barely four hours later, the Red Rainfall Warning in Zambales and Bataan was increased from No. 3 to No. 4. The warning also covered Pampanga, Tarlac and Nueva Ecija.

By noon of Sept. 15, Zambales and Bataan were under Red Rainfall Warning No. 5 while Orange Rainfall Warning No. 5 fell on Bulacan.

At 2:40 pm on Sept. 15, the first noticeable decrease in Ompong’s strength was noted.

The Storm Signal was reduced to 2 in Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Pangasinan, Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, Aurora, Zambales, Quirino, Pampanga and Bulacan.

Almost an hour later, the Red Rainfall Warning over Bataan was reduced to Orange.

Shortly past 5 pm, the final Storm Surge warnings were issued for Regions 1 and 2.

At 11: 31 pm of Sept. 15, Typhoon Ompong officially leaves the Philippine Area of Responsibility.

MORE LANDSLIDES

As of this writing, an additional 23 more bodies were recovered in a mining community in Itogon, Benguet. This put the remaining number of missing at 39.

As rescuers struggled to find the missing in Itogon, another landslide occurred in Naga City in Cebu.

According to an Associated Press report by Jim Gomez, this landslide “buried dozens of homes.”

At least 10 people were killed.

The landslide hit about 30 houses in two rural villages after daybreak in Naga city in Cebu province, Roderick Gonzales, the city police chief, told The Associated Press by telephone as he helped supervise the search and rescue. Seven injured villagers were rescued from the huge mound of earth and debris.

Some victims still managed to send text messages after the landslide hit, Gonzales said, adding elderly women and a child were among the dead.

Naga city Mayor Kristine Vanessa Chiong said by telephone that at least 64 people remained missing.

“We’re really hoping we can still recover them alive,” she said.

Rescuers carry a body they recovered at the site where victims were buried in a landslide set off by Typhoon Mangkhut as it lashed across Itogon, Benguet province. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

The landslide hit while several northern Philippine provinces were still dealing with deaths and widespread damage wrought by Typhoon Ompong (international name Mangkhut) which pummeled the agricultural region on Sept. 15 and left at least 88 people dead and 64 others missing. A massive search was still underway for dozens of people feared dead after landslides in the gold-mining town of Itogon in the north.

Rescuers were treading carefully in small groups on the unstable ground to avoid further casualties.

“We’re running out of time. The ground in the area is still vibrating. We’re striking a balance between intensifying our rescue efforts and ensuring the safety of our rescuers,” Naga city Councilor Carmelino Cruz said by phone.

Cristita Villarba, a 53-year-old resident, told AP by phone that her husband and son were preparing to leave for work when the ground shook and they were overwhelmed by a roar.

“It was like an earthquake and there was this thundering, loud banging sound. All of us ran out,” Villarba said, adding she, her husband and three children were shocked but unhurt.

Outside, she saw the house of her elderly brother, Lauro, and his family was buried in the landslide.

“Many of our neighbors were crying and screaming for help. Some wanted to help those who got hit but there was too much earth covering the houses, including my brother’s,” she said.

More than a dozen people live in her brother’s home, mostly his family and grandchildren, she said, adding that many small houses in her community got hit.

It’s not clear what set off the landslide, but some residents blamed limestone quarries, which they suspect may have damaged and caused cracks in the mountainside facing their villages. Villarba said a light rain stopped when the landslide hit and there was no rain on Wednesday.

The quarry nearest the landslide-hit villages was abandoned about a year ago, but a company still runs a government-authorized quarry not far away and villagers also profit from the limestone business, Angeline Templo, an assistant to the mayor, said by phone.

More than 300 villagers were evacuated for safety as search and rescue work continued, Templo said.

Naga is a coastal city with a population of more than 100,000. Cebu province was not directly hit by the typhoon but the massive storm helped intensify monsoon rains in a large part of the archipelago, including the Visayas region, where Naga city lies about 570 kilometers (353 miles) southeast of Manila.

 

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