An estimated 67 people are dead, floodwaters in some places have reached two stories high, millions were without power, and rescuers were scrambling to keep up after Typhoon Vamco became the third typhoon and fifth tropical cyclone to hit the Philippines in a matter of weeks.
“Vamco followed on the heels of Typhoon Goni, which hit in early November and clocked in as the world’s strongest typhoon so far this year,” the Washington Post reports. “The waves of successive storms walloping the Philippines this year have cost an estimated US$207 million in agricultural damages.”
On Sunday morning local time, Vamco made landfall in Vietnam, bringing winds up to 150 kilometres/93 miles per hour to an area about 100 kilometres north of Da Nang, CNN writes. Ahead of the storm, provincial authorities planned to evacuate 468,000 people by the end of Saturday.
“There has been no respite for more than eight million people living in central Vietnam,” said Vietnam Red Cross President Nguyen Thi Xuan Thu. “Each time they start rebuilding their lives and livelihoods, they are pummeled by yet another storm.”
It’s the 13th storm this year in a country with a long coastline that makes it vulnerable to flooding, CNN says. Natural disasters triggered by storm activity have killed 160 people in Vietnam since early October.
After Vamco ripped through the Philippines, “aerial footage from Cagayan Valley—a sprawling farmland region located a 10-hour drive from Manila—looked to be a muddy sea on Saturday after a dam’s floodgates were opened to release rainwater following the typhoon,” the paper adds. “Thousands of the area’s 1.2 million residents scrambled for higher ground, with many camping out on their rooftops.”
At least 40 neighbourhoods and 20 towns across Cagayan province were swamped, and the flooding stood at 12 metres (39 feet) in the region’s most heavily-populated centre, Tuguegarao City, as of Saturday night.
As the waters rose, “some stranded people, desperate for help, flooded social media with their locations and pleas for assistance,” the Post says. “The pandemic has further complicated the situation, with thousands of displaced people crowding evacuation centres, and travel restrictions—which were not eased until Sunday—potentially hampering aid and media access.”
While President Rodrigo Duterte pledged that authorities were “working round-the-clock, nonstop,” and that “help is on the way,” Philippine vice president and opposition leader Leni Robredo tweeted rescue updates that revealed a lack of equipment, like motorboats that could handle the strong currents.