Philippines restores flights, power as Ursula death toll climbs

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 27 2019 09:33 AM | Updated as of Dec 27 2019 10:11 AM

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MANILA -- Philippine authorities on Friday moved to restore power to millions and normalize air traffic in the wake of a typhoon that tore through the central islands on Christmas Day, as the death toll climbed to 28.

The country's largest airline, Cebu Pacific, said it was mounting recovery flights to assist those whose bookings were canceled this week. Typhoon Ursula (Phanfone) tracked a path similar to Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in 2013, damaging the Kalibo Airport that serves Boracay Island.

Iloilo accounted for 13 out of 28 fatalities, said the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council. The storm injured 2 others, while 12 others remained missing, it added.

Ursula forced 43,850 people to evacuation centers, damaged around 2,000 houses and 55 schools, and knocked down power in almost 150 towns, the NDRRMC reported.

This table shows a tally of those killed, injured and left missing by Ursula's onslaught. NDRRMC

It may take 10-15 days before power is restored in Occidental Mindoro with the help of electric cooperatives from neighboring provinces, said Governor Eduardo Gadiano.

"Talagang napakarami kasing natumbang poste; kahit na bakal, bali iyong mga poste (many electric posts fell, even the metal ones)," he told radio DZMM.

Ursula could also prompt the provincial government to declare a state of calamity for a third time this year as emergency funds ran low, he said.

In Iloilo, it could take 5 days or until New Year's Day before power is restored in 4 northern towns, Governor Arthur Defensor told radio DZMM. Two Iloilo towns declared a state of calamity, he said.

A magnitude 4.8 quake on Thursday night rattled Iloilo province and nearby areas. There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage, he said.

HOLIDAY SPOILER

Ursula hit Boracay, Coron and other holiday destinations that are famed for their white-sand beaches and popular with foreign tourists.

"Roads remain blocked, but some efforts have been made to clear away the damage. It's pretty bad," said Jung Byung-joon, a Korean tourist at Kalibo airport.

"Everything within 100 meters of the airport looks broken. There are a lot of frustrated people at the airport as flights have been cancelled.

"Taxis are still running but it's windy and still raining so no one wants to leave the airport, including me."

Another Korean tourist stuck at the damaged airport said she had been unable to make contact with her friend on Borocay on Thursday.

"I tried to call my friend in Boracay today and wasn't able to get through. Maybe something isn't working," Dahae Gong told AFP via Instagram.

"I don't know when I will be able to go home."

YOLANDA'S PATH

Though much weaker, Ursula tracked a similar path as Super Typhoon Yolanda -- the country's deadliest storm on record which left more than 7,300 people dead or missing in 2013.

"It's like the younger sibling of Haiyan. It's less destructive, but it followed a similar path," Cindy Ferrer, an information officer at the Western Visayas region's disaster bureau, told AFP.

The Philippines is the first major landmass facing the Pacific typhoon belt, and is hit by an average of about 20 major storms a year.

Many of the storms are deadly, and they typically wipe out harvests, homes and infrastructure, keeping millions of people perennially poor.

— With a report from Agence France-Presse