People in northern Luzon spent “Undas,” the annual Filipino tradition of honoring the dead, clearing debris and muck, and looking for their kin in the aftermath of Typhoon “Rosita” (Yutu).
Rosita has affected more than 220,000 people and damaged properties and crops estimated at P2 billion. At least 15 people have been reported dead, including nine from a landslide in Mountain Province.
Even for a part of the Philippines regularly hit by typhoons, the north has been particularly battered this year. In September, Typhoon “Ompong” (Mangkhut), which has drawn comparisons to Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (Haiyan), careened into Northern Luzon, damaging P18 billion worth of infrastructure and agriculture and affecting more than 2 million people.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council reported that Rosita isolated communities, affecting 98 road sections and 10 bridges in Cagayan Valley, Cordillera Administrative Region and Central Luzon.
The typhoon downed 42 transmission lines in northern and southern Luzon, of which 30 have already been restored.
Rosita also triggered at least 11 landslides, including in Natonin, Mountain Province, which buried 31 people who took shelter in a Department of Public Works and Highways engineering building.
Rescuers pulled out 23 bodies: 14 survived, nine have been confirmed dead, while eight remain missing. Rescue operations have been expanded to the neighboring towns.
“It is customary for us to bury our dead in our own property… [But] I was not able to visit my mother today as I have a duty to fulfill. I believe she would understand,” Natonin Councilor Rafael Bulawe said.
He said nobody expected this part of the mountain to collapse.
“There was a creek there but it was small. The rain that Rosita dumped on the mountain that day was really too much,” he said.
In scenic Batad village, famed for its rice terraces, a mudslide buried a father and his three daughters, whose family earlier thought they have survived the typhoon.
Day care teacher Rita Pinnay was thankful her family had emerged safe from Rosita in the morning, but their hut was swallowed by a mudslide in the afternoon, killing her husband and three daughters.
Her husband Baltazar was preparing food, her 11-year-old daughter Rexibelle was painting her toenails, 10-year-old daughter Rhezel was reading, and the youngest, 8-year-old Rydbell, was asleep when disaster struck.
Rescuers later dug up Baltazar’s corpse still holding on to the arms of two of the daughters.
In rice and corn-producing Cagayan region and the Cordilleras, where many vegetable farms are located, almost 20,000 farmers and fishermen were affected.
The Department of Agriculture estimated that P1.39 billion in rice crops and P47.02 million in corn fields were destroyed, while P373.86 million in coffee, banana, mango, rambutan and vegetable produce were also affected.
Meanwhile, damage to poultry farms, piggeries and other livestock was estimated at P2.51 million, while that to fisheries was about P881,000.
The government has sent work crews to open impassable roads to Natonin and ensure that food and supplies can flow into town. Food packs and fuel for heavy equipment were also being flown into Mountain Province.
“We have not yet started rehabilitating areas damaged by Typhoon ‘Ompong’ [in September], and then Rosita struck, so we are still under a state of calamity,” Mountain Province Gov. Bonifacio Lacwasan Jr. said.
President Duterte, who inspected the disaster areas by air and held a briefing in Cauayan, Isabela, described the damage as “extensive” and said much work has to be done for rebuilding and rehabilitation.
With the double wallop of Ompong and Rosita, the north needs all the help it can get. The nation’s attention and sense of commiseration should be directed to reaching out to our countrymen in the affected regions, as they mourn the dead, console the survivors and begin to pick up their lives.
Swift and generous aid and support from the government should be ceaseless and unhindered these days, to allow the battered provinces and their residents to regain a semblance of normalcy and stability, perhaps even cheer, as the holiday season approaches.
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