‘Ompong’ leaves 54 dead, 42 missing in Cordillera

BAGUIO CITY — Typhoon Ompong left 54 dead, 42 missing and 32 injured as it lashed provinces in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), the Cordillera Regional Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (CRDRRMC) said Sunday.

In a press briefing, Cordillera Interior and Local Government Regional Director Marlo Iringan, who heads the CRDRRMC’s committee on management of the dead and the missing, said the deaths were recorded in Itogon, Benguet, 34; Baguio City, nine; Bontoc Mountain Province, six; La Trinidad, Benguet, three; Tuba, Benguet, one; and Pasil, Kalinga, one.

Of the 42 missing persons, 36 are in Itogon.

Majority of the dead and missing in Itogon town were in Barangay Ucab and Loakan, where massive landslides happened.

CRDRRMC chairman and Office of the Civil Defense Cordillera (OCD) Regional Director Ruben Carandang said all DRRMCs in the region remain on red alert.

This is also considering the saturated soil in the region, which poses a high possibility of landslides.

He added that Baguio City, Benguet and other parts of the region experienced a rainfall of over 1,600 millimeters (mm) in August, exceeding the average rainfall amounting to over 600 millimeters for the said month.

The average rainfall of September is 550 mm but on Saturday alone, 760 mm of rainfall poured over these areas and drenched and already saturated soil, causing several landslides, flooding in some areas and swelling of the river.

Reports from the other provinces have yet to be received as power, internet and other communication networks are being reinstated.

Baguio Mayor Mauricio Domogan, who is also the Regional Development Council and Peace and Order Council chairman, assured that government agencies are consolidating their efforts in response to the situation.

Aside from responding to the needs of those affected, continuous search, rescue and retrieval operations will be conducted, particularly in Itogon where scores of people are missing and believed to be buried in a landslide.

Brig. Gen. Leopoldo Imbang, chief of the Army’s 503rd Brigade who heads the search, rescue and retrieval committee of the CDRRMC, said joint personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police (PNP), Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), local emergency DRRM council members and volunteers, private rescue groups including miners will continue to help each other dig in the tons of mud that fell from the mountain.

He said they will resume operations on Monday morning.

“We have halted the operation tonight due to the darkness. The operation will be difficult considering the unstable area and volume of the debris but with high spirit and sense of coordination, we are optimistic that we will still rescue survivors,” Imbang said.

Benguet Governor Crescencio Pacalso said residents have been forewarned and were urged to pre-emptively evacuate but it was unfortunate that there have been victims.

DSWD-Cordillera Regional Director Janet Armas said aside from the food and non-food items being distributed to the 5,321 who are still in the evacuation centers all over the region, they are also assisting those who have evacuated from their houses and moved to relatives’ houses for safety.

This is aside from the burial assistance their office is giving to the families of those who perished due to Typhoon Ompong; and the financial assistance that the local government will be giving the families.

Dr. Amelita Pangilinan added that the Department of Health is ensuring that they are monitoring possible communicable diseases, to assure the safety of those in evacuation centers. They are also distributing water, sanitation and hygiene supplies to the evacuees.

Angie Mabitasan of the DPWH-Cordillera said Naguilian road leading to Baguio city is open to all types of vehicles while Marcos Highway was also opened at 9 p.m. Sunday.

She said there are numerous roads destroyed and there are some that were washed-out and will take time to be opened.

“We are assuring the public that we are doing our best to open the roads to allow goods, services and people to move,” Mabitasan said. (PNA-northboundasia.com