Christmas typhoon kills 2 in Leyte, thousands flee home

Christmas typhoon kills 2 in Leyte, thousands flee home

TACLOBAN CITY — At least two persons died in Leyte province while thousands spent their Christmas Eve in evacuation centers when Typhoon Ursula unleashed its wrath in Eastern Visayas Tuesday night.

Arvin Monge, chief of the Leyte provincial disaster risk reduction and management office (PDRRMO), said a police officer died due to electrocution when the typhoon made its second landfall in this city.

The PDRRMO was still getting more details on one typhoon-related fatality in Kananga, Leyte.

Based on an initial report, the powerful typhoon has displaced at least 1,840 families or 16,787 individuals in 80 villages in15 towns in the province.

In Tacloban City, the regional capital, some 551 families or 1,507 individuals moved to evacuation centers.

Towns with evacuees were Palo, La Paz, Dulag, Pastrana, Babatngon, Barugo, Carigara, Jaro, San Isidro, Ormoc City, Isabel, Albuera, Villaba, Bato, Baybay City, Abuyog, and Tanauan.

Affected families had to skip the Christmas traditions of “Noche Buena” and the last “Simbang Gabi” Mass as they took shelter on higher grounds away from home.

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Monge said local authorities had disseminated warnings days before the typhoon’s landfall, but most residents ignored the warning since they were too preoccupied with Christmas Day preparations.

“This is the strongest after Super Typhoon Yolanda in terms of wind compared. The rain was not that heavy, but some areas were flooded early Wednesday morning as accumulated rainwater from upland flowed to populated communities after seven hours,” he told the Philippine News Agency (PNA).

The majority of areas in Leyte province have been experiencing a power outage since Tuesday night as the storm’s fierce winds toppled several electric posts.  Most areas have weak mobile phone signals as of Christmas Day.

With the storm’s impact, the PDRRMO was proposing to place Leyte under a state of calamity within the week.

“We still have to gather more data from affected municipalities. It is very challenging due to unstable communication signals, power outages, and lack of personnel,” Monge added.

“Ursula” made its first landfall at about 4:45 p.m. on Tuesday.

The region’s five provinces were placed under Storm Warning Signal No. 3 on Tuesday night as the typhoon blew maximum sustained winds of up to 150 kph.  Sarwell Meniano / PNA –