At least eight Israeli nationals are believed to be currently stranded on the island of Siargao in the Philippines, where the strongest typhoon to hit the country this year claimed the lives of more than 350 people on Monday, and desperate survivors have pleaded for a supply urgent need for drinking water and food. .
According to Yafit Meirov, an Israeli business owner who previously resided and worked on the island, eight Israelis living there were all safe but in urgent need of help.
“There is no electricity at the moment and [with downed power lines and no mobile signal], it’s hard to reach someone there. But we know they are doing well and have shelter, ”Meirov told The Times of Israel on Monday.
Siargao Island is a popular surfing destination, located in the province of Surigao del Norte in the Philippine Sea, about 800 km (497 miles) southeast of the capital Manila.
“There have been millions of damages to destroyed homes, properties, places. It’s a very serious typhoon, ”added Meirov, who has been in Israel since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. She previously owned a travel agency and restaurant on the island and intended to go back. , after thinking at the start of the pandemic that she would see the global crisis go through in Israel with her family for a few months before returning home.
“I left everything there, all that’s left of it now. I intended to be here for a few months and go back, ”she said.
Meirov said she was now fundraising to help people on the ground buy water and supplies, and was in the process of setting up a charity called “Israel helps the Philippines.”
Sa’ar Geva, owner of a chain of hostels on Siargao Island, spoke to The Times of Israel from Manila, noting that he was worried about his staff of around 100 who had no water. , nor electricity, and could not be contacted easily.
Geva, 34, has lived and worked on the island for six years. He said the people there had prepared as much as possible for the typhoon, “but we didn’t expect it to be like this.”
“Everything that was not concrete has been erased, there is flooding, the damage is absolutely insane,” said Geva.
He explained that a member of his team managed to get in touch by satellite phone to let him know that everyone seemed to be taken care of, including his fellow Israelis. Geva also said he was able to make direct contact with all but one of the people through different local networks.
“But they have no water, food or electricity, and we are now in the process of purchasing supplies before trying to return to Siargao later in the week,” Geva said. He expects to hitchhike with an aid mission to the island on Wednesday.
“I am[sic] fly there in a few days to help and assist, we need donations, either equipment / food or cash. you can send me a message and misdirect your donation the right way. allow [sic] help this beautiful island, my home, the happiest place on earth to come back [sic] be livable, ”Geva wrote on Facebook on Sunday, urging her subscribers to send donations via Pay Pal.
Tal Oran, a 25-year-old Israeli content creator on YouTube, who has lived on the island for two years, told a local news station on Saturday that urgent help was needed.
“Me and most of the Israeli and foreign friends here… most of us are fine. The situation is quite bad in all the islands… we are in desperate need of help and care… But all is well, we are in a good mood, we are working hard… we need help as soon as possible ”, said Oran.
At least 50 missing in the Philippines
Authorities said Monday that at least 375 people were killed, 500 injured and 56 were missing in the typhoon. Several central provinces across the country were struggling with communication and power outages and begging for food and water.
The toll may rise further as several towns and villages have been left out of reach, due to communication and power outages, although massive clean-up and repair efforts are underway.
At its strongest, Typhoon Rai blew sustained winds of 195 kilometers (121 miles) per hour with gusts of up to 270 km / h (168 mph) before blowing into the South China Sea on Friday.
The storm ripped roofs, uprooted trees, knocked down concrete utility poles, smashed wooden houses, destroyed crops and flooded villages, drawing comparisons to the damage caused by Super Typhoon Haiyan in 2013.
Many have been killed by falling trees and collapsing walls, flash floods and landslides. A 57-year-old man was found dead hanging from a tree branch and a woman was blown away and died in Negros Occidental province, police said.
Governor Arlene Bag-ao of the Dinagat Islands, among the southeastern provinces first hit by the typhoon, said Rai’s ferocity over her island province of over 130,000 was worse than that of Typhoon Haiyan , one of the most powerful and deadliest typhoons on record, which devastated central Philippines in November 2013 but claimed no casualties in Dinagat.
“If it was like being in a washing machine before, this time there was like a huge monster that crashed all over the place, grabbed anything like trees and tin roofs and then threw them everywhere, ”Bag-ao said over the phone. “The wind turned from north to south, east and west several times for six hours. Some tin roof sheets were blown away and then thrown back. “
At least 14 villagers died and more than 100 others were injured by flying roofs, debris and shards of glass, and were treated in makeshift operating rooms at damaged hospitals in Dinagat, Bag- said. ao. Many more would have died if thousands of residents had not been evacuated from high-risk villages.
“Our situation is so desperate,” said Ferry Asuncion, a street vendor in the hard-hit seaside town of Surigao, the capital of Surigao del Norte province to which the island of Siargao belongs. Residents urgently needed “clean water and food,” he said.
Dinagat and several other typhoon-hit provinces remained without power, and communications and many residents needed building materials, food and water. Bag-ao and other provincial officials have traveled to neighboring areas with cell phone signals to seek help and coordinate recovery efforts with the national government.
More than 700,000 people were struck by the typhoon in the 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 the town of Loboc in the hard-hit province of Bohol, where residents were trapped on rooftops and in trees, where they fled to escape the flooding. waters.
In Bohol – known for its beaches, rolling “chocolate hills” and tiny tarsier primates – at least 94 people have died, provincial governor Arthur Yap said on his official Facebook page.
A senior official with the national disaster agency said he did not expect so many deaths.
“I was proven wrong, as the reports are now showing,” said Casiano Monilla, deputy administrator for operations.
Emergency crews were working to restore power to 227 towns and villages, officials said. Electricity has only been restored in 21 areas so far. Telephone connections in more than 130 towns and villages were cut by the typhoon, but at least 106 had been reconnected on Monday, officials said. Two local airports remained closed except for emergency flights, but most of the others have reopened, the civil aviation agency said.
A country vulnerable to typhoons
Rai hit the Philippines at the end of the typhoon season – most cyclones develop between July and October. Scientists have long warned that typhoons are getting stronger and stronger and stronger as the world warms due to man-made climate change.
The Philippines, ranked among the nations most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, lies between the Pacific Ocean and the South China Sea. It also lies along the seismically active region of the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, making it one of the most disaster prone countries in the world.
The country is hit by an average of 20 storms each year, which typically destroy crops, homes and infrastructure, in already impoverished areas.
Typhoon Haiyan, known as Yolanda in the Philippines, was the most severe storm to ever make landfall at the time, killing more than 7,300 people or missing. Rai’s death toll shouldn’t come close to that number.