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Typhoon Odette leaves lifetime lesson

SOUTHERN LEYTE – The 269-kilometer wind speed of super typhoon Odette (international name, Rai) devastated the entire province of Southern Leyte in varying degrees one year ago, on the 16th of December 2021.
“The people did not expect the gravity of the wind that rammed on the seashores, farms and hills of the province that started at three in the afternoon until nine in the evening. Thousands of families lost shelter as their homes were totally wrecked by typhoon Odette.” (SLT issue 1139).
An estimation of around 80% households were seriously affected, said the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Chief Danilo Atienza. While the island of Limasawa was badly battered, leaving 90% of the houses destroyed. Municipalities of the province in Panaon Island severely suffered the brunt of the typhoon.
The cost of the destruction in Southern Leyte in terms of infrastructure and agriculture is estimated at Php3 billion, said then Department of Public Works and Highways Secretary Roger G. Mercado.
Communication was almost zero during the first two days after the typhoon. Charging of cellphones were done in few places which had generators. People lined up for hours to get drinking water and gasoline.
Most of the coconut trees, the main agricultural product of Southern Leyte, fruit and other income producing trees either fell down or were damaged. Fishing boats were also destroyed.
All businesses were affected, some had to close, others had to borrow funds or use their savings, and a number had to downsize. The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) cited the survey results stating that typhoon Odette destroyed about 405 business establishments in Southern Leyte. The DTI survey in the province found that 57 percent of businesses were wrecked and 43 percent were damaged.
The first significant responses were from the local electric cooperatives in Eastern Visayas to repair the fallen electric poles and lines, like the Southern Leyte Electric Cooperative, Leyte Electric Cooperative, Ormoc Electric Cooperative, and Samar Electric Cooperative. And, the Philippine Red Cross Southern Leyte Chapter immediately attended to the stranded travelers and other affected people in disaster areas. The Department of Public Works and Highways also prioritized the clearing of main roads.
In recent development, Department of Health Undersecretary Camilo Cascolan revealed that over 6 million vials of COVID-19 vaccines were wasted in three Visayas provinces due to natural calamities, storage and handling. Most of the wasted 800,000 vials of vaccines in Eastern Visayas were in Southern Leyte caused by typhoon Odette. A non-government organization report also mentioned that adolescents and young people needed mental health services after experiencing the dreadful typhoon experience.
In current scenario, food has become very expensive and inflation rate in Southern Leyte has gone up to 10.8%, the highest in Region 8.
Many Southern Leyte residents are learning that decisions involving infrastructure and agriculture have to consider that the province is a typhoon-prone area, and with climate change a reality, preparedness is a necessity.

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