Typhoon Rai death toll passes 400 in Philippines

More than 80 people are missing after the storm ripped through the archipelago on December 16

The Philippine death toll from Typhoon Rai passed the 400 mark, the disaster agency said on Friday, as thousands of displaced people prepare to see in the new year in tents.

Rai was the 15th and deadliest typhoon to hit the South-East Asian nation this year, devastating the vast archipelago and affecting 4.5 million people.

Reported deaths had reached 405, mostly the result of drowning, fallen trees and landslides, Ricardo Jalad, chief of the national disaster agency, told a news conference. He said 1,147 people had been injured and that 82 were still missing.

More than 530,000 houses were damaged, a third of which were totally destroyed, while damage to infrastructure and agriculture was estimated at 23.4 billion pesos ($459 million), Mr Jalad said.

About 500,000 people were forced to shelter in evacuation centres, government data showed. The storm made landfall as a category 5 typhoon on December 16, and left a trail of destruction in the provinces of Bohol, Cebu, and Surigao del Norte, including the holiday island of Siargao, and the Dinagat Islands.

In central Philippine provinces, disaster and government officials have been grappling with inadequate relief supplies for thousands of residents still without power and water.

"It caused massive destruction and it was like a bomb was dropped in northern Bohol," Anthony Damalerio, chief of Bohol province's disaster agency, told Reuters.

A popular dive spot, Bohol reported 109 deaths and is seeking shelter kits, food and water, Mr Damalerio said.

"Our problem is shelter [for] those who lost roofs, especially now that this is rainy season in the province," Surigao del Norte Governor Francisco Matugas told ANC news channel.

"We don't have food, my baby has no milk or diapers," said Vetonio, 23, in the devastated city of Surigao, on the northern tip of Mindanao island, last week.

"I hope the government will help us – even a little aid would help us recover," she said.

The military, coast guard and humanitarian organisations have increased efforts to get food, drinking water and temporary shelter to the hardest-hit islands.

President Rodrigo Duterte declared a state of calamity in the typhoon-affected areas, freeing up funds for relief efforts and giving local officials power to control prices.

But the scale of the destruction, lack of mobile phone signal or internet in many areas, and depleted government coffers after the Covid-19 response were hampering efforts to distribute aid.

The damage caused by Rai has been likened to Super Typhoon Haiyan in 2013.

Updated: December 31st 2021, 12:59 PM