The celebration of Christmas in the Philippines was obscured by the tragedy caused by typhoon Phanfone, which caused at least sixteen deaths and sowed a trail of destruction after passing through the central region of the Asian country on Wednesday.
The storm began to enter the South China sea at dawn after hitting the Visayas region with heavy rains and wind gusts that reached 195 kilometers per hour, although early in the afternoon its trail was still causing heavy rainfall in the southeast of the island of Luzon.
The strong typhoon caused 16 deaths, two wounded and the disappearance of six people, in addition to affecting a total of about 45,000 people, of which almost 39,000 had to shelter in temporary shelters, according to an official statement from the National Center for the Reduction of Disasters (NDRRMC).
In a first balance, the provincial council for the reduction of disasters of the Western Visayas region indicated in the early afternoon that nine people had died in the province of Iloilo and another four in that of Capiz, both located in the north of Panay Island, where there are also six missing.
Local civil defense offices added that at least three other people died in two municipalities on the island of Leyte and another in Biliran, all located in the eastern part of Visayas, the first to receive the storm attack.
The PAGASA Filipino meteorological service, which christened the typhoon as “Ursula,” raised the tropical storm alert at noon in most parts of the country, as the storm weakened and moved away from the archipelago.
However, the agency warned of the risk for navigation due to the poor state of the sea in the west of the country, where sustained winds of 120 kilometers per hour persist, and urged the population to take precautions against the risk of landslides and water avenues
The gale knocked down electricity poles and trees, destroyed fishing boats and reduced numerous houses in areas such as San Roque in Biliran to rubble, images shown by the Philippine Red Cross on its Twitter account showed.
Nearly ninety municipalities were left without power supply, which made it difficult to prepare the balance of damages and victim counts by the authorities.
The Phanfone also caused the cancellation of 115 domestic flights, including all air traffic from the Boracay airport, one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations, and from Kalibo, both in the northwest of Panay’s legislature.
In addition, bad weather left nearly 15,800 passengers stranded by the interruption of maritime transport, according to the National Agency for Disaster Prevention, although by mid-morning it had already been restored in most of the affected area.
The same body added that about 1,700 people had to be evacuated to provisional shelters in the Central Visayas region, while in the provinces of Albay and Masbate, the displaced added up to 9,000 more.
The Philippines receives between 15 and 20 typhoons every year during the rainy season, which begins around the months of May and June and usually ends between November and December.
In November 2013, Sui typhoon Haiyan caused more than 6,300 deaths, a thousand missing and 14 million victims with sustained winds of 235 kilometers per hour that caused a tsunami that swept kilometers of coastline.