Philippines: Typhoon Molave Forces Thousands from their Homes

Basilio Sepe and Jeoffrey Maitem
Manila and Cotabato, Philippines
201026-PH-storm-620.jpg Filipinos wade through a flooded cemetery in Masantol municipality in Pampanga province, a week before All Saints Day, Oct. 25, 2020.
Basilio Sepe/BenarNews

Typhoon Molave lashed across the Philippines on Monday after making landfall the day before, leading to flooding that forced thousands from their homes, authorities said, adding that a group of fishermen were reported missing.

The storm, known locally as Typhoon Quinta, made landfall in five locations on Sunday as it cut a westward path from the Pacific Ocean. The 17th typhoon to make landfall this year, it packed sustained winds of up to 125 kph (77 mph) before leaving the landmass at 5 p.m. Monday.

“The police stations are doing their best to basically respond to all the flooded areas. We have also re-echoed the directive that we should be able to force evacuate those who are in high-risk areas most especially for flooding,” Humerlito Dolor, the governor of central Oriental Mindoro province, said in a radio interview Monday.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) noted that 1.2 million houses and infrastructure valued at $12.2 billion that lay in the path of the storm were at risk.

“The winds are strong enough to cause minor damages and some power loss,” the OCHA said.

Winds whipped by the typhoon toppled trees and blew away tin roofs and huts. The civil defense office said there were no immediate reports of any deaths, although a group of fishermen from eastern Catanduanes province were reported missing.

The Coast Guard originally reported that 12 fishermen were missing, but later cut the number to seven after five were located, Agence France-Presse reported.

In addition, seven crew members of a yacht, MV Oceanic Explorer 3, were rescued when it sank off Batangas province in Luzon, the Coast Guard said in a report.

Emergency teams “successfully rescued seven of the eight crew members onboard,” authorities said. However “efforts to rescue the last remaining missing crew member” were ongoing.

“They have been missing for 24 hours,” Gremil Alexis Naz of the Civil Defense Office told Manila radio station DZMM. “They were expected to return home yesterday by noon.”

The typhoon followed a tropical storm last week that caused widespread flooding in areas south of the capital Manila. On Friday, unseasonal heavy rain inundated a vast area of the southern island of Jolo, leaving it under knee-deep water.

Meanwhile, Al Francis Bichara, the governor of Albay, told reporters that more than 44,000 people were evacuated within the entire province on Sunday before Molave struck the area.

“There are strong winds and most areas are flooded, but this time it has subsided,” Bichara said on Monday.

The typhoon displaced more than 120,000 people, the Associated Press reported.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque assured the public that help was on the way for areas hardest hit by the typhoon, saying the social welfare department had prepared food packs and standby funds.

“Those who were hit by the storm, don’t worry, help will come. And the president’s number one concern is really the safety and well-being of those affected. Hang in there, help is coming,” Roque said.

Roque said the civil defense office had advised all evacuation centers to strictly require the wearing of masks and face shields along with proper social distancing as measures to guard against the further spread of COVID-19.

“It is important that evacuees are not taken in facilities that are being used as quarantine sites,” Roque said. “Evacuation centers being used by the LGUs (local government units) must be identified and prepared and those who have symptoms, no matter how mild, should be isolated from the rest of the population who are being evacuated.”

He said health emergency experts were prepared for the eventuality of storms and evacuations, and local governments were advised to stockpile food and medicine in anticipation of the storm season.

“We must observe COVID-19 mitigation measures when distributing relief goods and the management of evacuation center,” he said.

The Philippine health department recorded 1,607 new COVID-19 infections and 62 deaths on Monday, bringing the totals to 371,630 and 7,039, respectively. Globally, more than 43.1 have been infected by COVID-19 and more than 1.15 million have died, according to disease experts at U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.

History of storms

About 20 tropical storms and typhoons make landfall in the Philippines each year, some of them with devastating effect.

In 2012, more than 1,000 people died as Typhoon Bopha swept across eastern Mindanao carrying wind gusts of up to 200 kph (124 mph). A year earlier, more than 600 died when Typhoon Washi slammed into the southern island.

In November 2013, at least 7,000 people died and scores were reported missing after Super Typhoon Haiyan slammed into the central Philippines.

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