Philippines: Super Typhoon Rai leaves at least 12 dead ; thousands displaced amid widespread floods and damage

A powerful typhoon that battered the central Philippines left at least 12 people dead in massive floods that trapped residents on roofs and damaged buildings, including a hotel and an airport, officials said.

Typhoon Rai slightly weakened after slamming ashore on Thursday on the country’s southeastern coast but still packed destructive and deadly winds of 150 kmh and gusts of up to 205 kmh. Meteorologists said it was moving away into the South China Sea on Friday.

Officials were assessing the extent of the damage and casualties wrought by one of the strongest typhoons to hit the country in recent years but said efforts were hampered by widespread power outages, downed communications and roads clogged with fallen trees and debris.

Witnesses described ferocious winds that ripped off roofs and forced down trees, while others experienced severe flooding that trapped residents on their roofs.

“I have never experienced such ferocity of the wind in my life and we were not even directly hit,” Mayor Jerry Trenas of central Iloilo city said, adding that at least one resident was killed when she was hit by a cluster of bamboo blown down by the storm.

Workers were clearing roads in the coastal city of nearly half a million people, which remained without power and struggled with erratic cellphone signals, he said.

Eleven other people died, mostly after being hit by fallen trees, collapsed walls and ceilings and debris, and seven villagers were missing, Ricardo Jalad, who heads the government’s disaster-response agency said.

A large number of houses and buildings, including an airport and a hotel, were damaged by the wind or inundated by floodwaters, officials added.

In central Bohol province, which was directly hit by the typhoon, Gov. Arthur Yap said many residents remained trapped on their roofs by floodwater for a second day in the riverside town of Loboc, where his own house was swamped by water up to the second floor.

More than 332,000 people were evacuated as the typhoon approached, including nearly 15,000 who were brought to evacuation centres.

The coast guard grounded all vessels in dozens of ports, stranding more than 4,500 passengers and ferry and cargo ship workers. An international airport in central Cebu province was closed and several mostly domestic flights were cancelled while schools and workplaces were shut in the most vulnerable areas, Nograles said.

At least 62 cities and towns either lost power entirely or were experiencing disruptions.

About 20 storms and typhoons batter the Philippines each year. The archipelago is located in the seismically active Pacific “Ring of Fire” region, making it one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries.