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The death toll in the Philippines has surpassed 200 on Monday following a 168mph typhoon — the country’s strongest storm this year — on Thursday. Described as “complete carnage”, it caused widespread flooding and landslides that impacted the lives of hundreds of thousands of residents.
The horrific typhoon, which hit the southern and central regions of the Philippines, also destroyed homes and infrastructure.
According to the government, more than 300,000 residents had to evacuate their homes, and a total of about 780,000 people were affected in one way or another.
The chairman of the Philippine Red Cross, Richard Gordon, said in a statement its staff were reporting “complete carnage in the coastal areas”.
He claimed: “Homes, hospitals, school and community buildings have been ripped to shreds.”
According to national police, Typhoon Rai, the most powerful of 15 typhoons to hit the Philippines in 2021, has killed at least 208 people. 239 were injured and 52 remain missing.
President Rodrigo Duterte flew to the region Saturday and promised 2bn pesos ($40m) in new aid. Aides said the president will visit Bohol on Sunday.
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Thousands of military, police, coast guard and fire personnel were deployed to assist in search and rescue efforts in the worst-affected areas.
Officials have also warned of a shortage of food and water.
Arlene Bag-ao, the Governor of Dinagat Islands, said Rai’s ferocity was worse than Typhoon Haiyan’s in 2018, one of the most powerful and deadliest typhoons on record in the Philippines.
It left more than 7,360 people dead or missing on the island province of more than 130,000.
She said: “If it was like being in a washing machine before, this time there was like a huge monster that smashed itself everywhere, grabbed anything like trees and tin roofs and then hurled them everywhere.
“The wind was swirling north to south to east and west repeatedly for six hours.
“We have a dwindling supply of food and water.”
President Rodrigo Duterte flew to the region on Saturday and promised 2bn pesos (£30.3m) in new aid.
He has also conducted a nationwide aerial inspection of the areas ravaged by the storm.
Videos posted on social media by the president’s aides show serious damage to Siargao, Dinagat and Mindanao islands.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has launched an emergency appeal seeking 20 million Swiss francs (£16m) to fund long-term relief efforts.
Angeli Cantillana, a communications campaigner for Greenpeace South-east Asia, said communities she had met were yet to receive assistance.
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Speaking from Butuan after visiting Surigao, both badly impacted areas, she claimed: “The situation right now is heartbreaking.
“Just along the way you can see the houses are really damaged – both partially and fully damaged.
“A lot of houses don’t have roofs anymore and a lot of families are staying outside their homes.”
With phone networks yet to be restored, she said “coordination is really hard right now”.
The Philippines is battered with around 20 storms and typhoons per year and is ranked among the world’s most vulnerable nations to climate change.
The vast archipelago is located in the seismically active Pacific Ring of Fire region, which makes it incredibly prone to natural disasters.
Ms Cantillana, speaking of the worrying speed with which Typhoon Rai intensified, said: “Disasters are getting worse and what the scientists have been saying in the IPCC [intergovernmental panel on climate change] – it has already been happening in the Philippines.”
Officials said 29 British, American, Canadian, Swiss, Russian, Chinese and other visitors were stranded on Siargao Island, a popular tourist destination that was devastated by the typhoon, were picked up by coast guard ships.
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