‘Ofel’ death toll hits 27; 4 areas under state of calamity

By Alexis Romero

Tropical storm “Ofel” has left 27 people dead and displaced more than 11,000 others, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said yesterday.

NDRRMC executive director Benito Ramos said nine of the fatalities were from Mimaropa region (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan), eight from Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon), five from SOCCSKSARGEN (South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, General Santos), two each from Bicol and Central Visayas, and one from Eastern Visayas.

The latest fatalities were identified as Redon Dote, 13, of Batangas City, and John Michael Castillo, 2, of Bulan, Sorsogon, who both drowned during the onslaught of the storm. An unidentified female corpse was also recovered in San Juan, Batangas, but local officials decided to bury it last Friday because it was already bloated and decomposing. The bad weather also hurt 19 people while nine others were reported missing.

The NDRRMC said Ofel (international name Son-tinh) affected some 14,667 families composed of 70,616 persons. Of thae number, 2,530 families or 11,430 individuals are still in 63 evacuation centers. The storm damaged more than P55 million worth of agriculture and infrastructure projects in Mimaropa and Bicol, and destroyed 603 houses.

Four areas have been placed under a state of calamity including Lobo town in Batangas, Oriental Mindoro, and the municipalities of Buug and Imelda both in Zamboanga Sibugay. The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and various local government units have released a total of P6.37 million to help the victims.

In North Cotabato, the search and rescue operations continued for two missing farmers whose houses were swept away by raging floodwater in a low-lying village in Tulunan town Saturday. The victims, John Barrentos and Bonifacio Calan, both of Sitio Sambulan, Barangay Bakong, have yet to be found as of press time. At least 30 houses were destroyed by the flood.

The victims’ families, who are sheltered at an evacuation center in Tulunan proper along with other displaced residents, were still waiting for updates from the members of the search and rescue team. One of the evacuees, Delia Casel, 70, said heavy downpour brought by Ofel caused the Bakong River to swell and submerged Sitio Sambulan and other parts of their community.