By Aaron Recuenco
Massive search and rescue operations have been launched in various parts of northern Luzon as authorities began to receive reports of deaths and missing persons mostly due to landslides during and right after the onslaught on typhoon ‘Ompong’.
As of today, a total of 25 people were confirmed dead while 13 others are missing, according to Presidential Political Adviser Francis Tolentino who was appointed as the point man of President Duterte on typhoon response.
Most of the fatalities, according to Tolentino, are from the Cordillera Administrative Region with 20, four from Nueva Vizcaya and another one from Ilocos region.
“They all died as a result of landslides. There were families buried alive after their houses were hit by landslides while some died after being hit by boulders and other debris while cleaning after the typhoon,” Tolentino told the Manila Bulletin in a phone interview.
The casualties do not include a female teen whose cadaver was discovered floating in a river in Pasig City.
Authorities earlier corrected their earlier declaration that two responders died in Cordillera.
Tolentino, who was in the Cordillera Administrative Region, said at least 13 others were reported missing as of yesterday—eight in Baguio City and five others in Benguet.
“There were also reported injuries in various parts of CAR, mostly as a result also of landslides,” the official said.
Cagayan and Isabela provinces were directly hit by the typhoon but as of today, Tolentino said they are yet to receive reports from the two provinces.
“What we are getting so far as reports from the peripheral areas affected by the typhoon. Power and communication lines are cut here and this is the reason why we are still consolidating all the reports,” Tolentino said.
As of 6 a.m. today, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), reported that there were 63,769 families or 250,036 persons affected by ‘Ompong’ in 30 provinces in Luzon.
Of the figure, almost 40,000 families or almost 150,000 people are currently housed in various evacuation centers.
Search and rescue mode
As of Sunday, Tolentino said more people were deployed in the affected areas to conduct search and rescue missions in areas where landslides were reported.
“We are all in search and rescue mode as of this time. We want to go as quick as possible to areas hit by landslides or areas cut off as a result of the typhoon,” said Tolentino.
Requests for equipment and additional manpower were also made to expedite the search and rescue mission.
Based on the initial ocular assessment, Tolentino said agriculture suffered the most in the typhoon devastation in northern Luzon.
“The damage is really at the agriculture. But we cannot do something about it no matter how we prepared, that’s a force of nature,” Tolentino said.
He said the government response is expected to be discussed as President Duterte was expected to visit the affected areas on Sunday.