>> Saturday, May 24, 2008
SAN FERNANDO CITY, La Union -- The death toll from tropical storm "Cosme" has reached 44 in Central and Northern Luzon with most fatalities coming from Region 1 particularly in Pangasinan.
Region 1 (Ilocos) was considered the hardest hit area by Cosme, which left the country on May 20.
The National Disaster Coordinating Council said the number of injured has reached 16, five from Region 1, four from Region 3 (Central Luzon), and seven from the Cordillera Administrative Region as of press time.
NDCC said 31 casualties were from Pangasinan, eight from La Union, four from Zambales and one from Benguet. Most of the victims died after being hit by falling debris and flying sheets of galvanized iron roofing blown away by strong winds.
The NDCC said 16 people were injured while one was reported missing as of press time.
More than one million residents of Regions 1, 3, 6 and the Cordillera Administrative Region were affected by floods, landslides and storm surges brought by Cosme, which made landfall in Pangasinan last Saturday and slashed through Northern Luzon.
The damage to agriculture and infrastructure was placed at P149.66 million.
The NDCC said several power transmission lines in La Union, Pangasinan and Zambales were damaged when several towers were toppled by strong winds.
Electricity has yet to be restored in 10 towns and a city in La Union, 21 in Pangasinan and two municipalities in Zambales.
Telecommunications and water supply in Pangasinan have also been cut off since May 17, the NDCC said.
Relief operations were still being conducted in the affected areas at press time.
Elvira Calina, regional disaster coordinating council chief of Pangasinan, said about 80 percent of the province still has no electricity.
She said officials were working on restoring power within two weeks.
Potable water was brought in from nearby provinces or was drawn by residents using manual pumps because the local water distribution company could not operate without power, she said.
Chief weather forecaster Nathaniel Cruz said Cosme, which reached the strength of a typhoon when it hit Pangasinan, generated small tornadoes, which could partly account for the widespread damage.
Education Secretary Jesli Lapuz said 74 school buildings were damaged, including 43 in Pangasinan, less than two weeks before the start of the school year.
Meanwhile, the Department of Social Welfare and Development said the agency has provided close to P1-million worth of food packs to affected families in the provinces of Pangasinan, La Union, Zambales, Benguet and Baguio City.
DSWD Secretary Esperanza Cabral said the agency has more than P5 million in standby funds and stockpiles in the four affected regions.
Twelve evacuation centers were set up by the DSWD in the CAR and Regions 1, 3, and 6, which served 205 families or 1,170 individuals who sought temporary shelter in these centers, bringing to 43,003 families and 229,225 persons served in various ways relative to the recent onslaught of Cosme.
Aside from scattered rainshowers, no tropical cyclone is likely to affect the country until the weekend, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) said yesterday May 21.
Pagasa weather forecaster Rene Paciente said latest satellite data showed that there was a slim chance that the low pressure area spotted off southern Visayas will develop into a tropical depression.
However, Paciente said the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) would bring rains over Luzon and the eastern section of Visayas and Mindanao in the next 24 hours.
Paciente said the country could be visited by at least one more tropical cyclone this month.
As of 2 a.m. on May 21, the LPA was estimated at 910 kilometers east of southern Visayas, which was embedded along the ITCZ.
Twenty tropical cyclones are expected to enter the Philippine area of responsibility this year, Pagasa earlier said.
Last year, a total of 49 people were killed and over 180,000 families were affected by
13 tropical cyclones that hit the country, according to the NDCC.
The weather disturbances also left damage to agriculture and infrastructure reaching over P800 million, the NDCC said.
In his report to President Arroyo, Defense Secretary and NDCC Chairman Gilberto C. Teodoro Jr. said that damage to agriculture and infrastructure has reached P3.327 billion, with Region 1 accounting for P3.284 billion in agriculture and P15.492 million in infrastructure damages. -- By Jerry Padilla, Jennelyn Mondejar and George Trillo