Typhoon “Sendong” Kills More Than 600 in the Philippines

Fox News

As a storm that killed more than 650 in the southern Philippines raged outside the store where she works, Amor Limbago worriedly called home to check on her parents, but their cellphones just kept ringing and later went dead.

Limbago, 21, rushed home as soon as the flash floods receded and confirmed her worst fear: Her parents and seven other relatives were gone, swept away from their hut by the river. They had eagerly planned a small Christmas dinner in that hut just days earlier.

“I returned and saw that our house was completely gone,” a weeping Limbago told The Associated Press from Cagayan de Oro city. “There was nothing but mud all over and knee-deep floodwaters.”

Tropical Storm Washi blew away Sunday after devastating a wide swath of the mountainous region on Mindanao island, which is unaccustomed to major storms.

Most of the victims were asleep Friday night when flash floods cascaded down mountain slopes with logs and uprooted trees, swelling rivers and killing at least 652 people. The late-season tropical storm turned the worst-hit coastal cities of Cagayan de Oro and nearby Iligan into muddy wastelands filled with overturned cars and broken trees.

Most of the dead were children and women, Philippine Red Cross Secretary General Gwendolyn Pang said. At least 808 others were still missing, mostly in the two cities, she said.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and top military officials flew to Cagayan de Oro and Iligan to help oversee search-and-rescue efforts and deal with thousands of displaced villagers. Among the items urgently needed are coffins and body bags, said Benito Ramos, who heads the government’s disaster-response agency.

“It’s overwhelming. We didn’t expect these many dead,” said Ramos, adding that authorities were continuing to find bodies floating at sea.

Although the disaster-prone Philippines is lashed by about 20 typhoons and storms annually, the devastation shocked many, coming close to Christmas — the predominantly Roman Catholic nation’s most-awaited time for family reunions. Army officials in the south said they canceled Christmas parties and would donate the food to homeless survivors.

Limbago said she and her mother, Jean, 50, and father Amancio, 63, planned to have a simple Christmas dinner of spaghetti. Those plans had evaporated Sunday as she and surviving relatives checked crowded morgues, hospitals and evacuation centers for any sign of her missing parents.

Others lost homes and belongings but were happy to have survived.

Edmund Rubio, a 44-year-old engineer, said he, his wife and two children scrambled to the second floor of their house in Iligan city as floodwaters engulfed the first floor, destroying his TV set and other appliances and washing away his car and motorcycle.

Amid the panic, he heard a loud pounding on his door as neighbors living in nearby one-story houses pleaded with him to allow them up to his second floor. He said he brought 30 neighbors to the safety of his house, which later shook when a huge floating log slammed into it.

“It’s the most important thing, that all of us will still be together this Christmas,” Rubio told the AP.

About a block away from Rubio’s house, rescuers used a backhoe and shovels to search for 19 people in the muddy ruins of a two-story house that collapsed when it was hit by a massive log. They dug out 11 bodies from the site Saturday, witnesses said.

Army officers reported unidentified bodies piled up in morgues in Cagayan de Oro, where electricity was restored in some areas, although the city of more than 500,000 people remained without tap water.

At least 346 died in Cagayan de Oro and 206 in Iligan, the Red Cross said. The death toll was expected to rise because many isolated villages still had not been reached by overwhelmed disaster-response personnel.

“Our fear is there may have been whole families that perished so there’s nobody to report what happened,” Pang said.

Both Iligan, a bustling industrial center about 485 miles southeast of Manila, and Cagayan de Oro were filled with scenes of destruction and desperation.

A lone worker gingerly embalmed scores of bodies laid side by side in an Iligan city funeral parlor. Outside the embalming room, seven white coffins were placed in a corridor, surrounded by weeping relatives.

“Many mothers, fathers were walking from one funeral parlor to another, looking for their children,” said army Maj. Eugenio Osias, who led a rescue effort in Cagayan de Oro.

Ramos attributed the high casualties “partly to the complacency of people because they are not in the usual path of storms” despite warnings by officials that one was approaching.

In just 12 hours, Washi dumped more than a month of average rain on Mindanao.

Thousands of soldiers and hundreds of local police, reservists, coast guard officers and civilian volunteers were mobilized for rescue efforts, but were hampered by flooded-out roads and lack of electricity. Rescuers in boats rushed offshore to save people swept out to sea.

Typhoon “Sendong”, Signal 1 For Cebu and Bantayan Island

The National Weather Service has advised that Tropical Storm “Sendong” has developed into a Typhoon. Over Mindanao, Leyte and Bohol, Typhoon Sendong will increase in strength to a Signal Number 2 Typhoon. Cebu and Bantayan Island will experience Signal Number 1 conditions for the next 36 hours.

Wind and waves around Bantayan Island today will increase as Typhoon Sendong passes lower Cebu. The outlying band of clouds carrying moisture will effect Bantayan Island with heavy rainfall at times over the next 36 hours.

It is advisable that you check the ferry schedule in Hagnaya and Santa Fe before attempting a crossing to or from Bantayan Island. Ferry service was concealed all day for Bantayan Island today, Friday, December 16, 2011. It appears highly likely that there will also be no ferry service to or from Bantayan Island tomorrow, Saturday December 17, 2011.

At 4:30 pm, a large band of rain clouds entered the Santa Fe Municipality area of Bantayan Island with strong rain, wind and minor flooding. It appears that this heavy rain will continue throughout the night and into Saturday morning.

Update: 4:00am, Saturday, December 17, 2011.

Winds have recently increased along the shorefront with rain beginning again. The National Weather Service is reporting winds of 55 mph, with gusts up to 80 mph. Seas are extremely rough with no ferry service predicted for today, to or from Bantayan Island by Island Shipping Company.

By Tomorrow, Sunday, December 18, 2011, it is likely that the wind and rains will be gone over Bantayan Island and the seas should begin to calm. By Monday conditions should be calm with normal ferry service to and from Bantayan Island resuming.

Update: 2:40 pm, Saturday December 17, 2011

Wind and waves are beginning to subside here on Bantayan Island as “Sendong” passes the Philippine Area of Responsibility. Ferry service has resumed to and from the island.

Tropical Storm “Sendong” Changes Course

Tropical Storm “Sendong”, which was forecast to track across Cebu City and Bantayan Island by Friday, has changed course and is not predicted to miss Cebu City and Bantayan Island.

The following is the updated PAGASA storm track that is predicted as of today, for “Sendong”

Effected areas of Eastern Samar, Western Samar, Leyte Provinces, Camotes Island, and Bohol will experience “Signal Number 1” winds of 45-60 kph, and storm surge waves.

Bantayan Island will experience wind, rain and rough seas for Friday, Saturday and part of Sunday.

In the event that Sendong changes course again, we will update this web site with additional information.

New Typhoon Forming Near Cebu

A tropical Depression called 27W, is increasing in strength and moving towards the area of Cebu. The latest satellite imagery shows a large formation of rain and wind, south-east of Mindanao, moving westerly towards Cebu, and Bantayan Island.

Last night, we experienced strong winds and rain on the shores of Santa Fe, with calm winds and cloudy skies this Thursday morning.

If you are planning a trip to Bantayan Island for the next few days, you may want to consider putting it on hold until this Tropical system passes. It is likely that by Tomorrow morning ferry service will be halted as seas will be very rough and dangerous.

It would be wise to stock up now on a few food items and drinking water, as well as batteries for you flashlight, in the event this tropical depression does grow into a signal 1 or 2 Typhoon.

More updates to follow later today (Thursday, December 15, 2011)

Tropical Depression 27W To Strike Bantayan on Friday-Saturday

We are tracking a Tropical Depression named 27W or “Sendog”, with sustained winds over 35 mph, that is due to arrive in Cebu City and Bantayan Island by This coming Friday, December 16, 2011, and last Through Saturday, December 17, 2011.

The following is the graphic we are using to track this storm. As more update become available, we will keep you posted.