Deaths from dehydration in Philippines amid water, food shortages

Survivors of Typhoon Rai say they are running out of water and food as two people die of dehydration in Siargao island.

People affected by the typhoon Rai gather during a distribution of relief goods, in Surigao City on Monday [Mascarinas/Greenpeace/Handout via Reuters]

Two Filipinos who survived the devastation wrought by Typhoon Rai have died of dehydration, according to local media, as people in storm-ravaged areas pleaded for food and water and officials warned of potential looting in the absence of urgent humanitarian assistance.

The deaths on the hard-hit island of Siargao brought the typhoon’s toll to at least 392 on Tuesday.

According to the RMN Tacloban, the deaths occurred in the village of Dapa on Monday amid a shortage of clean water, days after Typhoon Rai first made landfall in the area. The radio station quoted health authorities as saying that the village urgently needs a generator as well as fuel to obtain clean water.

Rai, which struck the Philippines last Thursday, was the strongest typhoon to hit the archipelago this year. Aid workers in storm-affected areas have reported “complete carnage”, saying the typhoon has ripped homes, schools and hospitals to shreds.

Many areas remain cut off, with the storm having toppled power and telecommunication lines, hampering relief efforts.

On the island of Dinagat, Fely Pedrablanca, the mayor of Tubajon, said her town’s food supply was running low.

“Maybe in a few days, we will totally run out,” she said.

In Surigao del Norte, a province on the southern island of Mindanao, photos showed residents of Anahawan town carrying signs begging for financial aid to buy food.

The province’s disaster mitigation agency said 90 to 95 percent of the homes in the province had been damaged in some form and as many as 80 percent of residents were homeless.

In Bohol, Governor Arthur Yap said his province was also running low on supplies and that he could no longer secure rice and other food as his contingency fund had run out.

He said many of the 1.2 million people in his island province, which remained without power and mobile phone service five days after the typhoon struck, have become increasingly desperate.

Yap said the government’s social welfare department has promised to send 35,000 food packets, an inadequate amount for the province’s 375,000 families, but even those have not yet arrived.

In an interview on DZBB radio network, Yap thanked President Rodrigo Duterte for visiting his province over the weekend, but said, “If you would not send money for food, you should send soldiers and police, because if not, lootings will break out here.”

Yap said some incidents of looting, mostly of small merchandise stores, have already occurred.

The situation remained under control for the moment, he said, but could worsen if people, especially in hard-hit island municipalities, grow more desperate. People cannot withdraw money from banks without mobile phone connections and power, and fuel and water shortages have also caused long queues, he said.

The national police, however, said widespread looting was not a problem in the typhoon-ravaged regions and added that they were ready to deal with any lawlessness.

Duterte meanwhile has committed to release about 2 billion Philippine pesos ($40m) in funds to typhoon-hit provinces to help in recovery efforts. Thousands of military, police, coastguard and fire personnel have been deployed to aid in rescue and recovery efforts in hard-hit areas.

Emergency crews said they were working to restore electricity in 227 cities and towns, but by Monday, power had been restored in only 21 areas.

Mobile phone services have been restored in at least 106 of more than 130 cities and towns, while the civil aviation agency said all local airports, except for two, have reopened.

Typhoon Rai packed sustained winds of 195kmph (121 miles per hour) with gusts of up to 270kmph (168mph) at its most lethal before blowing out into the South China Sea on Friday. Nearly a million people were lashed by the typhoon, including more than 400,000 who had to be moved to emergency shelters as the typhoon approached.

Some have begun to return home but many have either lost their houses entirely or need to do considerable repairs. Some have been forced to temporarily move to other cities and live with other family members, also due to the lack of access to food and water.

The Philippines has not appealed for international help but Japan said it was sending power generators, camping tents, sleeping pads, water containers and tarpaulin roofing sheets to hard-hit regions while China announced it was providing 20,000 food packs and rice.

About 20 tropical storms and typhoons annually batter the Philippines, which also lies along the seismically active Pacific “Ring of Fire” region, where earthquakes and volcanic eruptions frequently occur, making the Southeast Asian nation of more than 100 million people one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies