THE strongest typhoon to hit the Philippines this year left at least six people dead, authorities said Monday.
Typhoon “Karding” (international name: “Noru”) toppled trees, knocked out power and flooded low-lying communities as it swept across Luzon on Sunday and Monday.
“We were ready for all of this,” President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. told a briefing with disaster agencies Monday. “You might think that we overdid it. There is no such thing as overkill when it comes to disasters.”
Five rescuers were killed after they were sent to help flooded residents in San Miguel town in Bulacan.
LtCol. Romualdo Andres, San Miguel chief of police, said the rescuers were wading through floodwaters when a wall beside them collapsed, sending them into the fast current.
An elderly man died after he was hit by a landslide in Burdeos municipality on the Polillo Islands, part of Quezon province, where the storm made landfall, said Garner Jimenez from the local civil defense office.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) on Monday said it was confirming reports that six fishermen in Camarines Norte were missing after they sailed into stormy seas.
The Civil Defense Bicol quoted the Camarines Norte Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office as saying that the fishermen were from the town of Mercedes.
Karding smashed into Luzon on Sunday after an unprecedented “explosive intensification” in wind speeds, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) said earlier.
It made landfall near Polillo before weakening to a typhoon as it crossed a mountain range, coconut plantations and rice fields.
Nearly 75,000 people were evacuated from their homes before the storm hit, as Pagasa warned heavy rain could cause “serious flooding” in vulnerable areas, trigger landslides and destroy crops.
But on Monday there was no sign of the widespread devastation many had feared, as the storm moved over the South China Sea towards Vietnam.
Aerial footage taken during Marcos’ inspection flight over Central Luzon showed rivers that were swollen or had burst their banks and patches of farmland under water.
Bordeaux town on the Polillo Islands bore the brunt of the typhoon.
Ferocious winds ripped off some roofs and brought down large trees while heavy rain flooded riverside houses, said Ervin Calleja, a 49-year-old teacher.
Flimsy houses along the coast were damaged and some crops were wiped out.
“Here at the town center all banana trees were flattened, 100 percent,” said Liezel Calusin, a member of Polillio’s civil defense team. “We still have no electricity, but the phones are working.”
The Department of Agriculture initially put the damage to agriculture at P141.38 million.
Close to 79,000 people were preemptively evacuated from 84 villages in Ilocos, Cagayan, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Mimaropa, Bicol Region, the National Capital Region and Cordillera.
Metro Manila had the highest number of evacuees at 33,043.
Officials also said 32 seaports in Calabarzon, Mimaropa and Bicol suspended trips, stranding 2,338 passengers.
During the briefing at the NDRRMC headquarters in Quezon City, Energy Secretary Raphael Lotilla told Marcos that Nueva Ecija and Aurora still had no power as of 7 am Monday.
The National Grid Corp. of the Philippines said the restoration of downed power lines is in full swing.
The Department of Energy said the majority of the power plants in Luzon were back to normal operations.
The Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) said 1,226,867 of its customers experienced power outages Sunday.
As of Monday morning, the number of affected customers was down to 51,773, Meralco said in a statement. Majority of them are in Bulacan, Rizal and Marikina.
Telecommunications companies have also begun to restore their services in the affected areas.
PLDT and its wireless arm Smart Communications on Monday said they had started providing free calls and text as well as free charging in Bataan, Aurora, Quezon, Tarlac, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga and Zambales.
Globe said service in most of Polillo has been restored. Call, text and data services are back up in Burdeos, Patnanungan, Polillo and Jomalig, it said.
National Irrigation Administration (NIA) Administrator Benny Antiporda confirmed that the Bulo Dam in Bulacan exceeded its spilling level of 76 meters, causing flooding in the towns of Doña Remedios Trinidad and San Miguel.
Antiporda also said that the NIA’s decision to release water from the Magat Dam in Isabela ahead of the typhoon prevented flooding in nearby provinces.
Agriculture Undersecretary Kristine Evangelista said at least 1.469 million hectares of rice and 281,322 hectares of corn were about to be harvested when Karding struck.
The Philippine Air Force said its disaster response task unit personnel, equipment, and air assets in Luzon are standing by for humanitarian missions.
Abalos said 8,642 police officers and 11,619 firefighters have been deployed in the affected areas, vital installations and evacuation centers.