The Philippines is no stranger to typhoons; that goes without saying. But more recent weather disturbances that have struck the country these past few years have been stretching the endurance of everybody wherever might be affected by their passing. And this previous weekend saw the visit of Typhoon Magkhut – known locally as Ompong – which brought devastation in parts of Luzon that come very close to replicating the horror of Typhoon Haiyan / Yolanda from 2013. Saturday saw Ompong make landfall in Cagayan Province and emerge at the West Philippine Sea that same day, leaving around 100 dead in its wake.
ABS-CBN News reports that the Philippine National Police (PNP) is estimating that as of Sunday, September 16, some 100 people are confirmed to have been killed in the passing of Super Typhoon Ompong in the northern parts of Luzon. This is such a massive increase from the Saturday official casualty listing of 30 dead, according to PNP spokesperson Benigno Durana. Some of the new additions to the death toll were indicated as having perished in landslides, always a perennial danger in mountainous or hilly terrain whenever the weather is stormy in the Philippines. Low-lying farmlands were also submerged in floodwaters.
The lion’s share of the fatalities hailed from Itogon, a mountain town in Benguet province that is home to many workers in the Cordillera small-scale mining industry. No less than 300 emergency responders – police, firefighters and civilian volunteers were deployed to the area to shovel away at landslide-covered areas, particularly the Itogon barangay of Ucab, where many of the structures buried by loosened soil were miners’ bunkhouses. Both PNP and the Cordillera regional director of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) have numbers varying from 36 to 42 of the number of people potentially trapped underground in Itogon.
Power was understandably knockout in areas of Luzon on account of electrical lines being collapsed by Ompong. Telecommunications are also spotty, which is why the Philippines’ top two telecom firms of Globe and Smart have started setting up stations where free calls can be made and mobile devices can be charged. In particular, Smart is temporarily disabling the 30-minute cap of its free Wi-Fi installations in the Ompong-afflicted areas of northern and central Luzon. PLDT-Smart also assures that their fixed-line and mobile services have not been too compromised by the typhoon, 96 percent active. Globe in turn has begun distributing relief goods in Cagayan Valley.
With Ompong – Mangkhut once again – now currently at China’s Guangdong province after a brief stop at Hong Kong, weather agency PAGASA estimates that the national weather condition will begin to improve as Monday goes on.
Image courtesy of CNN Philippines