Death toll from 'Ursula' climbs to 24

Leo Solinap, Ronald O. Reyes

(UPDATED) The number of people who perished during the onslaught of a powerful typhoon that swept through the same areas devastated by Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) climbed to 24 as of Thursday, December 26.

Disaster response officials said the highest number of fatalities due to Typhoon Ursula (international name Phanfone) was reported in Western Visayas at 16, followed by Eastern Visayas with seven, and Central Visayas with one.

“It was not as strong as Super Typhoon Yolanda in 2013. But the area covered by Ursula was the same as Yolanda. It was wide,” said Sher Rysiah Saises of the Office of the Civil Defense (OCD) in Eastern Visayas. Yolanda slammed into central Philippines with howling winds of over 300 kilometers per hour and intense rains, leaving more than 6,000 dead based on official count on November 8, 2013.

The municipal disaster councils of the towns of Balasan, Batad and Carles - considered ground zero in northern Iloilo province - reported four, seven and one fatalities, respectively, due to Typhoon Ursula.

As of Thursday, telecommunications and power were still down in these areas as well as in nearby Estancia town.

The powerful typhoon made its fourth landfall on Gigantes Island in Carles town, Iloilo at 2:30 a.m. Wednesday, December 25, 2019, with devastating winds of 140 to 195 kilometers per hour (kph) and torrential rains that flooded several towns.

As it barreled through central Philippines, the typhoon also hit land in Salcedo, Eastern Samar (4:45 p.m. Tuesday), Tacloban City, Leyte (7:30 p.m. Tuesday), Cabucgayan, Biliran (9:15 p.m. Tuesday), Ibajay, Aklan (8:40 a.m. Wednesday), Semirara Island in Caluya, Antique (1:00 p.m. Wednesday), and southern tip of Bulalacao, Oriental Mindoro (3:00 p.m. Wednesday).

In Balasan town in Iloilo, the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (MDRRMO) identified the fatalities as Danilo Abendaño, 62; Henry Alfuente, 64; Jomar dela Cruz, 33; and Claudia Amplomina, 50.

In Batad, Iloilo, the MDRRMO identified those who died as: Rhianna de Asis, 3; Ruel de Asis Sr., 42; LJee Angga de Asis, 12; Eduardo Alvarez, 62; Jeboy Lamatao, 34; Ronelo Evangelio, 13; and Rosemay de Asis, 15.

In Carles, the lone fatality was Abe Ignacio. There was also one fatality in Danao City, Cebu.

The death toll in Capiz province also increased to four. Officials identified the fatalities as: John Dial, 15, from Pilar town; Janine Lacorte, 13, from Mambusao; Merlinda Delatina, 53, from Pontevedra; and Edward Gautani, 12, from President Roxas town.

In Eastern Visayas, 29 people were also reported to have been injured while five remained missing.

The Office of Civil Defense (OCD) regional office identified three of the seven fatalities: Police Staff Sargent Charles Pongos, 38, from Barangay Taliwa, Malitbog, Southern Leyte; Arwin Jomoc, 13, from Barangay Pangasugan, Baybay City, Leyte; and Reymark Canete, 27, from Barangay Pawikan, Cabucgayan, Biliran.

Pongos died while he was on patrol. A live wire from a toppled electric post hit his neck after his vehicle crashed. Jomoc was also electrocuted while Cañete was hit by a mango tree branch.

Two persons were earlier reported dead in Eastern Samar: Carlos Yu Beltran, 70, who drowned after his house was swept away by storm surge; and Wilson Quizon Ogatio, who was hit by a flying galvanized iron sheet.

Authorities have yet to identify the other two fatalities in Leyte and Samar.

Eastern Samar Governor Ben Evardone said the missing fishermen from Borongan City are Clyde Lustre, Danilo Banezar, Artemio Ybanez, and Fiel Fabiliran. Another missing person was reported in Kananga, Leyte.

The typhoon felled trees and utility posts, cutting off telecommunications services and power supply, and damaged several structures.

Sea and air travel in Eastern Visayas were cancelled, leaving 3,234 persons stranded.

As of 1 p.m. Thursday, both sea and air travel have resumed.

Some areas in the region, however, were still without electricity such as Arteche, Oras, and San Policarpo in Eastern Samar, and Biliran province.

Eastern Visayas police said a total of 1,393 personnel were deployed for search and rescue operations. (SunStar Philippines)