Super Typhoon Rai (Odette) Leaves Deadly Trail, Destruction in Philippines

Camille Elemia and Froilan Gallardo
Manila and Cagayan de Oro, Philippines
Super Typhoon Rai (Odette) Leaves Deadly Trail, Destruction in Philippines Filipinos salvage belongings from their destroyed houses in Cebu province, a day after Super Typhoon Rai (Odette) hit the nation, Dec. 17, 2021.

Super Typhoon Rai (Odette) blew out of the Philippines on Friday but left a trail of devastation and at least a dozen deaths, according to officials, while independent reports warned that the toll could go higher. 

The storm, known locally as Odette, brought heavy damage to Cagayan de Oro, a province on southern Mindanao Island, as well as on Siargao, a tear-drop shaped island, which is a surfing paradise northeast of Mindanao. 

The Office of Civil Defense in Manila confirmed the death toll as of early Friday evening. Most of the victims were in the central Visayas region, which was pummeled by Odette. 

“We have 12 reported deaths, seven reported missing and two injured individuals,” said Mark Timbal, National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council spokesman. 

He said deaths were reported on the island of Guimaras, Negros Occidental, Southern Leyte and Bukidnon provinces, Iloilo, Cebu and Lapu-Lapu cities. 

Local officials and police who were not authorized by the disaster relief agency to speak to reporters said the toll would likely be higher because there were reports of other people dying either by drowning or being crushed by debris.

By Friday afternoon, the eye of the storm was over the South China Sea about 105 km (65 miles) northeast of Puerto Princesa City in western Palawan province, according to the state meteorological agency (PAGASA). Odette, with gusts up to 205 kph (127 mph), had weakened from a peak of 270 kph (168 mph) when it was classified a super typhoon after making landfall on Thursday. 

Gov. Francisco Matugas of Surigao del Norte province, which includes Siargao island, painted a grim picture for the popular holiday destination. 

“The whole island is totally devastated with an estimated damage of 20 billion pesos [U.S. $400 million],” he said in a report aired over radio in Manila.

“No communication up to now,” he said, adding that at least two deaths were reported in Siargao. 

“We are safe. We were stranded at the municipal building of San Isidro (town) at 1 p.m. on Dec. 16. The typhoon hit at 1:30 p.m. At 2 p.m., the strongest, probably category 4 typhoon battered San Isidro for two hours which totally damaged buildings and other structures,” Matugas said.

This aerial photo shows houses damaged on Siargao Island, Surigao del Norte province, by Typhoon Rai (Odette), Dec. 17, 2021. [Philippine Coast Guard]

The Philippine Coast Guard dispatched a Cessna airplane to fly over the island on Friday to assess the amount of destruction. Aerial photos showed homes and structures in various states of damage. Muddy floodwaters could be seen along the picturesque shoreline. The winds had ripped off the roof of a small airport building.

The island, which is home to many foreign and local tourists, remained cut off late Friday as telecommunications and power were down, officials said. 

In Cagayan de Oro city which had no recorded deaths despite being hard hit by the storm, flood waters had begun to subside by Friday. One day earlier, coast guard crews in rubber dinghies ferried hundreds to safety.

The number of those displaced by floods across the nation had more than doubled to more than 338,600 by Friday, disaster relief officials said. 

Residents take shelter at a cultural center turned into an evacuation center in Negros Occidental province, Philippines, Dec. 17, 2021. [AFP]

President Rodrigo Duterte, who was briefed on the extent of the damage, said he would go to inspect the devastated region on Saturday. He expressed concern about another storm that could hit in the next week.

“What I’m worried about is that another one would be coming up during Christmastime. We would be walloped,” he told his officials, according to transcripts of the briefing released to the media. 

“It’s Christmastime, people are happy and we have this one after another. I hope not. It will dampen the spirit of the people during Christmastime,” he said. 

“I am not so much worried about damage to structures, infrastructures of the government. My fear is the number of deaths,” he said. “I am eager as you to go there (and) see for myself.”


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