MANILA: The governor of a Philippine province devastated by Typhoon Rai pleaded with the central government on Wednesday to deploy more security personnel to the region, where the situation has worsened due to food shortages.
At least 375 people were killed and hundreds injured, according to Philippine police estimates, when Typhoon Rai slammed the southern and central regions of the country last week, destroying infrastructure, uprooting trees and knocking out communications and electricity in hard-hit areas in the Visayas, Mindanao and Luzon islands.
In the holiday island province of Bohol, one of the worst-affected areas in Central Visayas, Gov. Arthur Yap has warned that food is running out and that the province’s 1.4 million people are increasingly desperate, with many still without access to power, phone services and drinking water.
“It’s really very chaotic on the ground — it’s very difficult. So I really asked for the PNP (Philippine National Police) and the army to send us more troops and police to ensure that we can maintain peace and stability in the area,” Yap said in a television interview.
He added that incidents of looting have already been reported in two towns in the northern part of the province.
Similar reports have come from other regions, prompting the government to declare on Tuesday a state of calamity in Mimaropa, Western Visayas, Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Northern Mindanao and Caraga due to the impact of the typhoon. In a Tuesday night television address, Interior Secretary Eduardo Ano said that more than 14,200 police have already been deployed as part of the Typhoon Rai response.
“But we are sending additional personnel from different police regional offices to augment the existing security forces,” he said.
As most of the government’s emergency funds have been allocated to the COVID-19 response, international donors have pledged assistance to aid in the typhoon recovery efforts. China on Wednesday announced that it was donating $1 million to relief efforts, while the EU allocated an initial amount of €1.7 million ($1.9 million).
The US, France, Canada, Australia, Japan and other countries have also sent and pledged assistance, presidential spokesperson Karlo Nograles told reporters.
“We’re doing everything in terms of budget, the necessary moves and the necessary actions,” he said. “We are likewise grateful to our friends in the international community, partners and allies for their offers of assistance.”
The Philippines is regularly hit by typhoons, but climate change is said to be increasing their frequency. Typhoon Rai, locally named “Odette,” is the most powerful storm to hit the country this year.
The death toll is expected to increase as emergency crews enter affected areas to restore communications and power.