Mercy flight deployed to Catanduanes today

Published November 3, 2020, 7:23 AM

by Martin Sadongdong & Aaron Recuenco

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) will send a mercy flight to Catanduanes today, November 3, after it was severely devastated by Typhoon “Rolly,” Undersecretary Ricardo Jalad, Office of Civil Defense (OCD) administrator, said.

People watch a swollen river due to heavy rains brought by Super Typhoon Goni in Legazpi City, Abay province on November 1, 2020.
(Photo by Charism SAYAT / AFP / MANILA BULLETIN)

The mercy mission will deliver food and water to Catanduanes, where Rolly made its first landfall as a super typhoon. During the NDRRMC briefing Monday, Catanduanes Gov. Joseph Cua revealed that the entire province has been left in the dark after 80 percent of power lines were destroyed by Rolly.

Likewise, communication lines were severely affected, cutting Internet connection, added Cua, who was contacted for the first time at 1 p.m. Monday when the OCD team finally relayed the VSAT (very small aperture terminal) communication system to him.

“Before the typhoon hit, we no longer have electricity, probably for security reasons. Now, about 80 percent of the electric facilities of local cooperatives were damaged,” he said.

Water supply was also affected in Catanduanes since Cua said only deep wells were operational now in the province.

“Our water district is also affected. We have no potable drinking water. We only have individual deep wells that are operational,” he said.

Damage to infrastructure was estimated from ₱700 million to ₱1 billion, while damage to agriculture was initially pegged at ₱600 million, including destroyed abaca produce worth around ₱400 million and other high-value crops.

Based on aerial survey, Cua further said that about 65 percent of all houses made of light materials were wiped out while 20 percent of big houses sustained damage.

About 15,000 families were affected, too, Cua said.

A separate death count provided by Cua showed that five people died of drowning in Catanduanes while four others were injured. Compared to Typhoon “Rosing” in 1995 and Typhoon “Nina” in 2016, Cua described Rolly as stronger.

Jalad told Cua that the Department of Social Welfare and Development has already sent the first batch of food packs and potable water that will be delivered to Catanduanes via a flight organized by the Philippine Air Force on Tuesday.

Another batch of relief goods will also be flown for the entire Bicol region on Tuesday and Wednesday, Jalad assured.

Cua also reported that Catanduanes’ disaster funds were already depleted due to coronavirus disease (COVID-19) response efforts.

Meanwhile, Police Lt. Gen. Cesar Hawthorne Binag, deputy chief for operations of the Philippine National Police (PNP), said more or less 90 percent of infrastructure in Catanduanes was damaged.

Binag based the assessment on the visual survey and report of all local police forces in the province.

He confirmed that Catanduanes was virtually isolated after the onslaught of Rolly since all communication and power lines were cut off.

Based on the latest data of the OCD in Bicol, a total of 16 people were reported dead in the region, six of them were from Catanduanes – four in Virac, one in Gigmoto town identified as Luis Ubalde Jr., and another one in San Miguel town.

The other fatalities were from Albay – three in Guinobatan town identified as Ligaya Olayta, Malou Sanchez Nota, and Samuel Manrique Jr.; two in Tabaco City identified as Alvin Lunas and Jonathan Conserte; two in Malinao town; and one each in the towns of Polangui, Oas and Daraga.

Three other people were reported missing in Guinobatan town.

A total of 96,887 families, or 372,381 persons, were displaced in Bicol, most of them staying in various evacuation centers.