Officials in the Philippines are struggling to assess the damage of the strongest typhoon to hit the country this year, with several casualties reported as the storm barrelled across the archipelago, uprooting trees, toppling powerlines and flooding villages and towns.
At least four deaths were recorded in the central Philippine province of Negros Occidental on Friday, while three more were reported in the provinces of Surigao del Norte in the east, Bukidnon in the south and Western Visayas in the centre.
Describing Typhoon Rai as “one of the most powerful typhoons to ever hit the southern Philippines”, the International Federation of Red Cross said the storm had “torn houses to pieces”, “smashed” villages and left parts of several cities underwater.
More than 140,000 people have been severely affected, the organisation said, adding that its emergency workers are racing to rescue people trapped by severe floods that have submerged large areas of cities including Cagayan de Oro, Bohol and Kabankalan.
According to the Rappler news website, the four people killed in Negros Occidental province included a 64-year-old woman who was crushed when a tree fell on her home in the town of San Carlos.
Eugenio Jose “Bong” Lacson, the governor of Negros Occidental, was quoted as saying the typhoon had also destroyed the emergency triage centre at a local hospital, and that the coastguard and police were struggling to rescue people from a district in the heart of Kabankalan City, where rising waters from the nearby Ilog river were threatening elevated structures, too.