Philippines: Typhoon leaves many missing, displaces thousands as Covid-19 cases surge past 371,000

A destroyed house lies on its side after tropical storm Molave hit the town of Pola, Oriental Mindoro province on Monday (Oct 26, 2020). - AFP

MANILA, Oct 26 (AP) - A fast-moving typhoon blew away from the Philippines on Monday after leaving at least 13 people missing, forcing thousands of villagers to flee to safety and flooding rural villages, disaster-response officials said.

The 13 people missing from Typhoon Molave included a dozen fishermen who ventured out to sea over the weekend despite a no-sail restriction due to very rough seas. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

The typhoon was blowing west toward the South China Sea with sustained winds of 125 kilometres (77 miles) per hour and gusts of up to 150 kph (93 mph). It roared overnight through island provinces south of the capital, Manila, which was lashed by strong winds but escaped major damage.

At least 25,000 villagers were displaced, with about 20,000 taking shelter in schools and government buildings that were turned into evacuation centers, the Office of Civil Defence said, but officials added that some have returned home in regions where the weather has cleared.

"Villagers are now asking to be rescued because of the sudden wind which blew away roofs,” Humerlito Dolor, governor of Oriental Mindoro province, told DZMM radio.

Dolor said pounding rains overnight swamped farming villages in his province then fierce winds toppled trees and power posts early on Monday, knocking out power. Authorities were clearing roads of fallen trees and debris in some towns after the typhoon passed, he said.

In the eastern province of Catanduanes, the 12 fishermen were reported missing after they failed to return home from a weekend fishing expedition, officials said.

A yacht sank off Batangas province, south of Manila, and the coast guard said it managed to rescue seven crewmen but was still searching for another crewmember.

A woman wearing masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus wades along a flooded road due to Typhoon Molave in Pampanga province, northern Philippines on Monday (Oct 26). A fast moving typhoon has forced thousands of villagers to flee to safety in provinces. - APA woman wearing masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus wades along a flooded road due to Typhoon Molave in Pampanga province, northern Philippines on Monday (Oct 26). A fast moving typhoon has forced thousands of villagers to flee to safety in provinces. - AP

A passenger and cargo vessel also ran aground on Bonito island off Batangas as the region was pounded by fierce wind and rain early Monday. The coast guard said its personnel were on the way to the island to pick up five crewmembers and tow the vessel back to coast.

More than 1,800 cargo truck drivers, workers and passengers were stranded in ports after the coast guard barred ships and ferry boats from venturing into rough seas, officials said. Some of the ports were later reopened as the weather cleared.

About 20 typhoons and storms annually batter the Philippines, and the South-East Asian archipelago is seismically active, with earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, making it one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries.

Also on Monday, more than 70,000 people had sought shelter in evacuation centres in the Bicol region, Civil Defense said.

Meanwhile, the Department of Health (DOH) of the philippines on Monday (Oct 26) reported 1,607 new confirmed cases of Covid-19, bringing the total number of the cases in the country to 371,630.

The DOH said 245 more patients had recovered, raising the total number of recoveries to 328,258. The death toll climbed to 7,039 after 62 more patients died, the DOH said.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told an online media briefing that as of Oct 25, the DOH has monitored a total of 2,531 virus clusters across the country.

She said 2,140 or 84.6 per cent of the total clusters occurred in communities, 119 or 4.7 per cent occurred in hospitals or health facilities, 43 or 1.7 per cent occurred in jails, and 229 or 9 percent in other settings.

She said the DOH had noted that "there is an increasing number of cases in certain areas in the Mindanao region in the southern Philippines" recently.

However, she said the health care system in the region can still cope with the spike. - AP

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