Typhoon Rai's Death Toll in Philippines Climbs to 375 With Dozens Reported Missing

The death toll from Philippines' most severe typhoon of the year has now grown to 375 as dozens more remain missing and hundreds are injured. Before it exited into the South China Sea on Friday, Typhoon Rai walloped the group of islands with sustained winds of 121 mph and gusts as high as 168 mph.

The deadly and severe storm knocked down trees and walls and caused flash floods and landslides. Some central provinces have been left without power, food, water and means of communication in its aftermath, according to officials.

National police said that 56 people were missing and 500 were injured, but those numbers and the death count may grow further because of downed communications with some towns and villages. The typhoon was so severe that one woman was blown away and killed in Negros Occidental province, while a 57-year-old man was discovered dead hanging from a tree branch, police said.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told reporters Monday that authorities were still working to determine the extent of Rai's damage, "but it is huge," Reuters reported. Armed forces were dispatched Monday to deliver aid to more severely impacted areas.

"The first thing we are doing is address the food and water [supplies] and medical care of the injured," Lorenzana said.

Of the 15 typhoons to hit the Philippines this year, Rai was the strongest. President Rodrigo Duterte surveyed some of the impacted areas over the weekend and has pledged about $40 million in aid for the recovery campaign, Reuters reported.

Typhoon Rai Aftermath
The death toll from Philippines’ most severe typhoon of the year has now grown to 375 as dozens more remain missing and hundreds are injured. Cars pass by a toppled electrical post due to Typhoon Rai in Surigao city, Surigao del Norte, southern Philippines as power supply remain down on Sunday Dec. 19, 2021. Jilson Tiu/AP Photo

Governor Arlene Bag-ao of Dinagat Islands, among the southeastern provinces first hit by the typhoon, said Rai's ferocity on her island province of more than 130,000 people was worse than that of Typhoon Haiyan, one of the most powerful and deadliest typhoons on record which devastated the central Philippines in November 2013 but did not inflict any casualties in Dinagat.

"If it was like being in a washing machine before, this time there was like a huge monster that smashed itself everywhere, grabbed anything like trees and tin roofs and then hurled them everywhere," Bag-ao said by telephone. "The wind was swirling north to south to east and west repeatedly for six hours. Some tin roof sheets were blown away and then were tossed back."

At least 14 villagers died and more than 100 others were injured by flying roofs, debris and glass shards and were treated in makeshift surgery rooms in damaged hospitals in Dinagat, Bag-ao said. Many more would have died if thousands of residents had not been evacuated from high-risk villages.

Dinagat and several other typhoon-hit provinces remained without electricity and communications and many residents needed construction materials, food and water. Bag-ao and other provincial officials traveled to nearby regions that had cellphone signals to seek aid and coordinate recovery efforts with the national government.

More than 700,000 people were lashed by the typhoon in central island provinces, including more than 400,000 who had to be moved to emergency shelters. Thousands of residents were rescued from flooded villages, including in Loboc town in hard-hit Bohol province, where residents were trapped on roofs and in trees where they went to escape the rising floodwaters.

Coast guard ships ferried 29 American, British, Canadian, Swiss, Russian, Chinese and other tourists who were stranded on Siargao Island, a popular surfing destination that was devastated by the typhoon, officials said.

Emergency crews were working to restore electricity in 227 cities and towns, officials said. Power had been restored in only 21 areas so far. Cellphone connections in more than 130 cities and towns were cut by the typhoon but at least 106 had been reconnected by Monday, officials said. Two local airports remained closed except for emergency flights, but most others have reopened, the civil aviation agency said.

Bag-ao and other officials were concerned that their provinces may run out of fuel, which was in high demand because of the use of temporary power generators, including those used for refrigerated warehouses with large amounts of coronavirus vaccine stocks. Officials delivered vaccine shipments to many provinces for an intensified immunization campaign, which was postponed last week due to the typhoon.

At the Vatican, Pope Francis expressed his closeness to the people of the Philippines on Sunday, referencing the typhoon "that destroyed many homes."

About 20 tropical storms and typhoons annually batter the Philippines, which lies between the Pacific Ocean and the South China Sea. It also lies along the seismically active Pacific "Ring of Fire" region, making it one of the world's most disaster-prone countries.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Rai Destruction
The death toll continues to rise following the strongest typhoon to batter the Philippines this year, with several central towns and provinces still grappling with downed communications and power outages and pleading for food and water, officials said Monday. In this photo provided by the Office of the Vice President, a man checks his damaged home due to Typhoon Rai at Dinagat islands, southern Philippines on Sunday Dec. 19, 2021. Office of the Vice President via AP