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MANILA: More than 80 people have been killed in the heaviest typhoon to hit the Philippines this year, official counts said Sunday, as efforts to provide water and food to the devastated islands intensify.
More than 300,000 people fled their homes and resorts when Typhoon Rai devastated the southern and central parts of the archipelago.
The storm cut communications and electricity in many areas, ripped roofs off, knocked down concrete utility poles and flooded villages.
Arthur Yap, governor of popular tourist destination Bohol, said on his official Facebook page that mayors of the devastated island have so far reported 63 deaths in their towns.
This brought the total number of reported deaths to 89, according to the latest official figures.
But the toll was likely to rise as relief agencies assessed the extent of death and destruction caused by the storm across the vast archipelago.
Rai slammed into the country as a super typhoon on Thursday with winds of 195 kilometers (120 miles) per hour.
Thousands of military, police, coast guard and firefighters are deployed to assist with search and rescue efforts in the worst affected areas.
Coastguards and warships carrying food, water and medical supplies are dispatched, while heavy machinery – like backhoes and front loaders – are dispatched to help clear roads blocked by utility poles and fallen trees.
Charities and emergency services have appealed for donations.
An aerial survey of the damage to parts of Bohol – known for its beaches, rolling “Chocolate Hills” and tiny tarsier primates – showed that “our people have suffered greatly,” Yap said.
There was also widespread destruction on the islands of Siargao, Dinagat and Mindanao, which were most affected by the Rai when it struck the Philippines.
Aerial photos shared by the military showed severe damage in the town of Siargao de General Luna, where many surfers and vacationers had flocked before Christmas, with buildings stripped of their roofs and debris littering the ground.
The tourists were evacuated from the island on Sunday.
Dinagat Governor Arlene Bag-ao said on Saturday the damage to the island’s landscape was “reminiscent if not worse” than that caused by Super Typhoon Haiyan in 2013.
Haiyan, known as Yolanda in the Philippines, was the deadliest cyclone on record in the country, killing more than 7,300 or missing.
“I saw how Typhoon Odette tore through the provincial capital, piece by piece,” Dinagat provincial news agent Jeffrey Crisostomo told DZBB radio, using the local name of Rai.
“Large tables as heavy as a man flew during the storm’s assault,” he said.
In the town of Surigao on the northern tip of Mindanao, shards of glass from shattered windows, roofs, power lines and other debris were scattered through the streets.
Tricycle driver Rey Jamile, 57, braved flooded streets and “flying” corrugated iron roofs to bring his family to safety at a school evacuation center.
“The wind was very strong,” he told AFP, adding that now that the storm was over, he was struggling to find food and water.
Rai’s wind speed decreased to 150 km / h as he crossed the country, pouring torrential rains, uprooting trees and destroying wooden structures.
It emerged over the South China Sea on Saturday and headed for Vietnam.
Rai hit the Philippines at the end of the typhoon season – most cyclones typically 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 world’s most vulnerable nations to the impacts of climate change, is hit on average by 20 storms and typhoons each year, which typically wipe out crops, homes and infrastructure in already impoverished areas.