The mayor of the small town of Jipapad in the Philippines’ Eastern Samar province that was severely devastated by Typhoon Vongfong raised frantic appeals for help on Saturday, saying his constituents had no more food and clean water.
Jipapad, a fifth class municipality with an annual income of not more than 25 million pesos ($500,000), was the worst hit among the eight towns affected by Vongfong – known locally in the Philippines as ‘Ambo’ – when it barrelled through the province on Thursday.
“I am desperately calling for aid not only from the national and provincial government but from all good Samaritans because we don’t have food and water,” Mayor Benjamin Ver said in an interview with church-run radio dyVW in Borongan, the provincial capital nearly 80km to the south.
“President [Rodrigo] Duterte, I know that we are in a dire situation due to Covid-19 but our situation here right now is worse. We don’t have any electric supply, no communication. Our people are hungry,” Ver said.
Floodwaters rose as high as a two-story house and most of the town’s 13 villages remained underwater on Saturday morning, he said.
Vongfong made landfall about 30km east of Jipapad on Thursday with winds of up to 185km/h.
Two people in San Policarpio town and two others in nearby Oras, both in Eastern Samar, died at the height of the typhoon.
Vongfong weakened into a severe tropical storm on Friday and downgraded further into a tropical storm on Saturday on its way out of the country.
By 5pm (0900 GMT) on Saturday, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration tracked Vongfong about 110km north-northwest of Laoag City, Ilocos Norte.
It was moving at 30km/h with maximum winds of 65km/h and gusts of up to 80km/h.
If it does not change direction, it is expected to be 730km northeast of Basco, Batanes province, by Monday afternoon heading toward southern Japan.
Officials said Jipapad remained isolated on Saturday as the road and the bridge connecting it to the main highway was washed away by rampaging waters.
Governor Ben Evardone said floodwaters and fallen trees prevented a team from the Department of Public Works and Highways, the provincial government and Army from reaching the town.
“I’m worried about the people there, especially the elderly and children,” he told Philippine Daily Inquirer.
Ver said almost everyone in his town of 7,800 was displaced by Vongfong.
“We are calling our national government, our provincial government, even the private sector to help us. This is the worst tragedy in the history of Jipapad. The floodwaters reached so high that there were families inside their homes that were trapped,” he said.
Ver said 400 50kg bags of rice and boxes of medicines that were to be distributed to households during the Covid-19 quarantine were destroyed by floodwaters.
He feared a diarrhoea outbreak due to the absence of clean water.
Evardone said the provincial government could not provide much help to the town since its savings and calamity funds had been used up in responding to the Covid-19 outbreak.
“We are appealing to the national government to assist us financially for our long-term needs. But the immediate needs now are rice, food packs, water and housing materials for the hundreds of displaced families and thousands more from the evacuation centres,” he said.
Evardone said a number of flood-damaged classrooms and barangay halls that were used as isolation rooms for persons being monitored for Covid-19 also needed repairs.
The towns affected by Vongfong were San Policarpo, Dolores, Maslog, Oras, Arteche, and Can-avid, said the Provincial Risk Reduction and Management Office (PRRMO).
PRRMO head Josefina Titong said that in addition to four people who died, 14 others were hurt during Vongfong’s onslaught.
She said Vongfong displaced more than 127,900 individuals in the province.
In nearby Northern Samar, Vongfong displaced nearly 15,900 people in 16 of its 24 towns, said police reports.
The two Samar provinces remained without power after Vongfong’s strong winds toppled several power lines.
Evardone had described Vongfong as ‘Yolanda Jr’ because of the widespread damage it had caused in his province.
Supertyphoon ‘Yolanda’ – known internationally as Haiyan – was the strongest to ever make landfall and also swept through parts of Samar Island in November 2013. It left more than 7,000 people dead and 130 billion pesos in damages.
PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ASIA NEWS NETWORK