‘Agaton’ damage hits P136 million

An aerial view shows destroyed houses on a collapsed mountain side along the coastline in the village of Pilar, Abuyog town, Leyte province on April 14, 2022 day after a landslide struck the village due to heavy rains at the height of tropical Storm Megi. (Photo by Bobbie ALOTA / AFP)

(UPDATE) THE agricultural and infrastructure damage from the off-season Typhoon “Agaton” has reached P136 million, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) reported on Thursday.

Agriculture losses were placed at P134,991,740.13 in Western Visayas, Eastern Visayas and parts of Mindanao, where flooding damaged or destroyed crops.

Central Visayas and Northern Mindanao racked up P1,450,000 in infrastructure damage, the NDRRMC said.

The number of deaths rose to 76, the agency reported.

Majority of the deaths are in Eastern Visayas, while three are in the Davao Region and one in the Western Visayas.

Only one death, from Eastern Visayas, was confirmed by the NDRRMC.

The Agence-France Presse (AFP) placed the death toll at 80.

There were 29 individuals listed as missing — 27 from Eastern Visayas, and one each from the Davao Region and Western Visayas.

Eight people were injured, half of them in Soccsksargen (South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos), two in Northern Mindanao, and one each in Central Visayas and Davao Region.

Agaton also displaced 920,727 individuals or 279,557 families in 1,296 barangay in the Bicol Region, Western Visayas, Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Northern Mindanao, Davao Region, Soccsksargen, Caraga and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

About 162,000 individuals or 51,920 families are staying in evacuation centers.

The storm partially damaged 328 houses and destroyed 26 houses, the NDRRMC said.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) said on Wednesday that about P15 million in humanitarian assistance has been distributed in storm-hit areas in 10 regions.

The DSWD and local government units provided assistance with a standby fund or quick resource1 fund (QRF) amounting to P1.1 billion.

The affected regions were Bicol, Western Visayas, Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Zamboanga Peninsula, Northern Mindanao, Davao, Soccsksargen, Caraga and BARMM.

The DSWD said 675 evacuation centers were sheltering 24,165 families or 95,464 individuals.

There are 13,838 families, or 62,029 people, who chose to stay with relatives and friends.

Agaton, whose international name is Megi, is the second storm of the typhoon season in the Pacific for 2022.

The AFP quoted officials as saying rescuers dug up more bodies with bare hands and backhoes in crushed villages.

Twenty-six people died and around 150 were missing in the coastal barangay of Pilar, in Abuyog town, Leyte, after a torrent of mud and earth on Tuesday pushed houses into the sea and buried most of the settlement, authorities said.

“I have to be honest, we are no longer expecting survivors,” Abuyog Mayor Lemuel Traya told AFP, adding that emergency personnel were now focused on the difficult task of retrieving bodies.

About 250 people were in evacuation centers after being rescued by boat after roads were cut by landslides, he said.

A rumbling sound like “a helicopter” alerted Ara Mae Canuto, 22, to the landslide hurtling towards her family's home in Pilar.

She said she tried to outrun it, but was swept into the water and nearly drowned.

“I swallowed dirt, and my ears and nose are full of mud,” Canuto told AFP by telephone from her hospital bed. Her father died, and her mother has not been found.

Baybay City is also reeling after waves of sodden soil smashed into farming settlements over the weekend, killing at least 48 people and injuring more than 100, local authorities said. Twenty-seven are still missing, they added.

Aerial photos showed a wide stretch of mud that had swept down a hill of coconut trees and engulfed Bunga village, where only a few rooftops poked through the now-transformed landscape.

“We were told to be on alert because a storm was coming, but they did not directly tell us we needed to evacuate,” said Bunga farmworker Loderica Portarcos, 47, who lost 17 relatives and a friend in the landslide.

Portarcos braved heat and humidity as she advised a backhoe operator where to dig for three bodies still embedded in the soft soil, which had started to smell of rotting flesh.

“Our dead relatives are all in the morgue, but there will be no time for a wake to mourn them because the mayor told us they smell bad,” she said.

The death toll from Agaton is expected to rise as rescue operations switch to recovering bodies.

Black body bags containing 26 victims from Pilar were laid out on sand in Abuyog for relatives to identify on Wednesday.

Abuyog police chief Captain James Mark Ruiz said more boats were needed, but getting access to the shore was difficult.

Photos posted by the Bureau of Fire Protection on Facebook showed buildings crushed or turned over by the force of the landslide and debris in the water.

“We're using fiberglass boats, and there are steel bars exposed in the sea, so it's very difficult,” Abuyog Mayor Traya said, adding that the ground was unstable and “very risky.”

While Pilar survivor Canuto counts herself lucky to be alive, she said “many of us died and a lot are missing, too.”

Pope Francis, having been informed of the storm's destruction, expressed solidarity with the victims, the Vatican said in a statement.

“He also offers the assurance of prayers for the dead, injured and displaced as well as those engaged in recovery efforts,” the statement said. “His Holiness willingly invokes upon all the Filipino people God's blessings.”

Whipping up seas, Agaton forced dozens of ports to temporarily suspend operations, stranding thousands of people at the start of Holy Week, one of the busiest travel periods of the year in the Philippines.

It came four months after Typhoon “Odette” devastated swathes of the country, killing more than 400 and leaving hundreds of thousands homeless.

The Philippines — ranked among the most vulnerable nations to the impacts of climate change — is hit by an average of 20 storms every year.

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