Philippines: Super Typhoon Rai (Odette) Packs Strong Winds, Dumps Torrential Rain

Froilan Gallardo
2021.12.16
Cagayan de Oro, Philippines
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Philippines: Super Typhoon Rai (Odette) Packs Strong Winds, Dumps Torrential Rain Rescuers in a dinghy transport a stranded resident to safety after heavy rainfall from Typhoon Rai (Odette) caused a river to flood in Cagayan de Oro city, southern Philippines, Dec. 16, 2021.
Froilan Gallardo/BenarNews

Typhoon Rai, known locally as Odette, struck the southeastern seaboard of the Philippines and forced the evacuation of about 100,000 people on Thursday, officials said.

Rescuers in dinghies ferried people to safety in one city, Cagayan de Oro, where a torrential downpour from the storm caused the banks of a major river to overflow.

“As we speak, Odette is currently causing havoc and once our teams on the ground are able to gather more data we will apprise everyone,” said Joe-Mar Perez, the operations chief at the Office of Civil Defense in Manila. “According to the data that we have gathered, a total of 98,091 individuals have been preemptively evacuated.”

The storm made landfall in the Philippines at 1:30 p.m. local time Thursday. It gained strength with sustained winds of 195 kph (122 mph) near the center and gusts of up to 270 kph (168 mph) and was classified a super typhoon, according to state meteorological agency (PAGASA). 

Heaviest hit was Cagayan de Oro, a city of about 730,000 in the main southern island of Mindanao. Rescuers pulled residents from homes near the banks of the river that bears the city’s name. BenarNews reporters who were on site said winds blew roofs of shanties and toppled some trees.

Mike Fabello of the Cagayan de Oro City Social Welfare and Development Office said those rescued were staying in temporary evacuation centers, mostly government buildings or schools.

At the West City Central School in the village of Carmen, about 50 families huddled inside the gym. Village officials brought hot soup to warm the evacuees, many of whom arrived drenched by the storm. 

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An evacuee eats soup provided by officials at the West City Central School in the village of Carmen in Cagayan de Oro, Philippines, Dec. 16, 2021. [Froilan Gallardo/BenarNews]

Nick Jabagat, chief of the City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office, said most of the streets were flooded by Thursday morning. 

“Floodwaters near Centrio Ayala Mall were already waist deep by 10 a.m.,” Jabagat said, referring to an area near the city center.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Coast Guard prevented all ships from venturing out to sea on Thursday. 

Elsewhere, the highway between Butuan City and San Francisco town in Agusan del Sur was cut off by a landslide, according to Capt. Teody Agustin, spokesman of the Army 901st Infantry Brigade. 

In Lianga, Surigao del Sur, Roger Enriquez of the NGO Balay Mindanaw said a three-meter high storm surge forced about 200 families in Barangay Diatagon and San Agustin town to evacuate.

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A Philippine woman feeds her son at the West City Central School in the village of Carmen, Dec. 16, 2021. [Froilan Gallardo/BenarNews]

Throughout the Philippines, local Red Cross volunteers have joined the efforts. 

Richard Gordon, a senator who serves as the Philippine Red Cross chairman, said the COVID-19 pandemic had made preparations doubly hard.

“Red Cross emergency teams are urgently helping as tens of thousands of families bunker down for the most powerful storm they have faced this year. Volunteers are equipping shelters with blankets, first aid and food supplies. We are doing this to protect the people,” he said. 

Casiano Monilla, a civil defense deputy administrator, said crews were monitoring for possible casualties from the storm. 

“Prior to the landfall, we had not monitored any casualties. We hope we could sustain that,” he said, while noting that landslides in some areas were “highly probable.”

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Rescuers help Cagayan de Oro residents move to higher ground to escape floodwaters after Typhoon Odette struck the Philippines, Dec. 16, 2021. [Philippine Coast Guard via AP]

Odette’s landfall came exactly 10 years to the day that Tropical Storm Sendong (internationally known as Washi) struck, leaving 1,268 dead. Of this number, 1,227 were from Mindanao including 734 residents of Cagayan de Oro, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction Coordinating Council. 

Gordon of the Red Cross noted that Odette arrived at a time when the nation was reeling from other disasters.

“Filipinos are tough, but this super typhoon is a bitter blow for millions of people who are still recovering from devastating storms, floods and COVID-19 in the past year,” Gordon said. 

Jeoffrey Maitem in Davao City, Philippines, and Richel V. Umel in Iligan City, Philippines, contributed to this report.

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