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Typhoon Rai batters the Philippines

December 18, 2021

Typhoon Rai has triggered landslides, floods and other accidents in southern and central Philippines, killing scores of people. Emergency services have been working around the clock.

Toppled electrical posts lie along a street in Cebu city, central Philippines caused by Typhoon Rai on Friday, Dec. 17, 2021.
The storm also hit major population centers like Cebu city, home to almost 1 million peopleImage: Jay Labra/AP Photo/picture alliance

At least 85 people have died after typhoon Raibattered central and southern Philippines, officials said on Sunday. 

More than 330,000 have been displaced and several others are feared dead, officials added. 

The tropical storm, one of the most powerful of the year, made landfall on Thursday, with winds up to 195 kilometers (120 miles) an hour. Rai has weakened since making landfall, being downgraded from a Category 5 storm — the highest classification — to a Category 3.

Most of the victims died after being hit or crushed by falling trees or collapsing structures, while others drowned in flood waters or were swept away by swollen rivers.

Typhoon's fury

"We have lost our homes. Walls and roofs were torn and blow off by Odette like paper," Kaka Bag-ao, the governor of Dinagat islands, located in the country's southeast, said on Facebook.

"We have a dwindling supple of food and water. Electricity and telecommunications are down." she added.

The vice governor of Dinagat said around 128,000 residents were "trying to repair their houses because even our evacuation centers were torn down."

"They can't seek refuge anywhere else... everything was destroyed," Nilo Demerey told ABS-CBN.

More than 18,000 military and fire department personnel would join rescue efforts in the worst-affected regions, Mark Timbal, spokesperson of the national disaster agency told AFP news agency.

Residents salvage what's left of the their damaged homes caused by Typhoon Rai in central Philippines
Houses damaged by strong winds in a city in central PhilippinesImage: Jay Labra/AP Photo/picture alliance

The powerful winds have greatly damaged towns and cities, with trees uprooted, roofs torn off, and electricity lines cut.  

Several villages were flooded in the wake of the storm as well.

A resident carries bicycle over a toppled electrical post and tree, brought down by Typhoon Rai in Cebu city, central Philippines on Friday, Dec. 17, 2021.
Aid workers clear out city streets as strong winds bring down civic structuresImage: Jay Labra/AP Photo/picture alliance

The mayor of Mindanao island, the second-largest island of the Philippine archipelago, told a local media outlet Friday that the typhoon had ravaged Surigao city, in Mindanao's northeast, for several hours, causing "severe" damage. Surigao city has a population of around 170,000 people.

Presidential spokesperson Karlo Nograles previously said that more than 332,000 people had been evacuated from high-risk villages and around 15,000 of them had sheltered in evacuation centers.

Scores of flights were canceled and dozens of ports temporarily closed to offset the impact of the typhoon. 

A child plays among uprooted palm threes on the beach in the Philippines
Winds have uprooted trees, seen here is the destruction on Friday on coastal town of Dulag, Leyte island, central PhilippinesImage: Bobbie Alota/AFP/ Getty Images

Typhoon heads back towards the sea

Rai, locally known as Odette, was a super typhoon, the equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane in the United States, when it slammed into Siargao island on Thursday. 

But wind speeds had eased to 155 kilometers an hour (96 miles an hour) by Friday. At 1 p.m. local time on Friday, the eye of the storm was in the vicinity of the island province of Palawan, moving westward towards the South China Sea, according to the Philippines' storm warning agency.

Typhoon Rai hit the Philippines quite late in the typhoon season, with most storms developing between July and October in the region.

rm, lc/msh, wd (Reuters, AFP, dpa)