In Dinagat province, “everywhere you will see houses flattened to the ground or their rooftops blown away”

CAGAYAN DE ORO (MindaNew / 21 December) – Humanitarian aid workers who arrived in  the province of Dinagat Islands on Sunday were horrified to see houses flattened to the ground and landmarks, including its provincial capitol, destroyed by super typhoon ‘Odette.’

Charlito “Kaloy” Manlupig, chair of the Balay Mindanaw Foundation said the Category 4 winds and rains of typhoon “Odette” destroyed 95 percent of the island-province’s estimated 22,000 houses.

‘Odette’ made its first landfall in Siargao Island in Surigao del Norte at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, December 16, and slammed across the province of Dinagat Islands, where it made its second landfall in Cagdianao town.

Manlupig said the provincial capitol of Dinagat and the house of  Governor Arlene “Kaka” Bag-ao were not spared.

The capitol of Dinagat Islands province in the capital town of San Jose, after super typhoon ‘Odette:’ roof ripped off, glass windows and doors shattered, and the huge Christmas tree outside felled by the winds. Photo by KALOY MANLUPIG

“Dinagat Islands has been leveled to the ground by Super Typhoon Odette,”  Bag-ao  posted on her social media page on Saturday, December 18, a little past 12 a.m. where she also appealed for “food, potable water, temporary shelters, fuel, hygiene kits, medical supplies,” and assistance in “restoring electricity, running water, and telecommunications.”

“Our hospitals have also suffered significant damage rendering some of them inoperable. The fields and boats of our farmers and fisherfolk have been decimated. Most of our commercial and cargo vessels, in spite of taking all necessary precautions, are now unsuitable for sea voyages effectively cutting us off from the rest of the country,” Bag-ao said in her message posted in Butuan City by a team she sent to mainland Mindanao to inform authorities about the urgent needs of her island-province.

Balay Mindanaw’s rapid damage and needs assessment, done with Governor Bag-ao and other key provincial officials, placed the number of houses in the island at 22,000 in a population of 130,000

“Everywhere you will see houses flattened to the ground or their rooftops blown away,” said Manlupig whose team arrived in Dinagat on Sunday on board a Philippine Coast Guard boat, bringing with them food, water and SkyHydrant filtration system.

He said the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management office reported 15 deaths during the onslaught of  ‘Odette.’

Malupig said the sight of local disaster officials trying to salvage the one-month supply of soaked rice from their warehouse by cooking it into “lugaw” or porridge was heart-wrenching.

“People still lined up to get their share of lugaw because there is no food,” he said.

Super typhoon ‘Odette’ left behind a trail of destruction in the province of Dinagat Islands, including an estimated 95% of the province’s 22,000 house flattened to the ground or roofless.  Photo by KALOY MANLUPIG

Manlupig said they were only able to see the damage in the capital town of San Jose because the roads going to the towns of Loreto, Basilisa, Tubajon, and Libjo were still inaccessible.

He said they are still awaiting reports from Cagdianao.

Manlupig noted  that cases of diarrhea have been reported as the island’s drinking water facilities suffered damages.

“The island’s agriculture is gone. There is no food, no rice and no safe drinking water,” Manlupig said.

He said unscrupulous traders are selling vegetables at 300 pesos per kilo and gasoline at 100 pesos per liter.

Dinagat province is under Caraga region.

In neighboring Region 10 (Northern Mindanao) Mylah Faye Aurora Cariño, director of the  National Economic Development Authority said it would take a while for local government units to come up with the damage reports.

Cariño, who used to be regional director of NEDA-Caraga, said affected towns still have no communications and are unreachable by road and sea. “It will take a while for the numbers to sink in and for the long road to recovery to begin.”  (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)