by Enrico De la Cruz
MANILA (Reuters) – At least 72 people have died in the Philippine province of Bohol in the wake of Typhoon Rai, the province’s governor said Sunday, bringing the total number of fatalities across the country to more than 100.
Authorities stepped up rescue operations on Sunday after Typhoon Rai hit Thursday and Friday, the strongest tropical storm to hit the Philippines this year. The typhoon displaced more than 400,000 people, damaging homes and bringing down power and communication lines.
The national disaster agency had previously reported 31 casualties after the storm, but those numbers do not include victims in Bohol. The agency also stated that it is awaiting official reports from Bohol and other regions.
In Dinagat province, in the south of the country, the local government reported 10 deaths on Sunday, but it was also unclear whether those deaths had already been included in the official disaster agency count.
Most of the deaths were due to falling trees and drowning, officials said.
The widespread destruction made it difficult for authorities to immediately provide a clear picture of the extent of the damage, as communication and power lines still need to be restored in many areas.
Rai, which at one point was a Category 5 storm, touched down nine times, leaving a massive trail of destruction also reported in Cebu, Leyte, Surigao del Norte provinces, including the popular surfing destination Siargao and the Dinagat Islands .
The storm uprooted trees, tore down roofs, razed homes, destroyed infrastructure and flooded many cities, hampering efforts to deliver food and water to victims.
Rai displaced nearly 490,000 people in the Philippines before heading into the South China Sea over the weekend.
In Bohol, which is home to some of the country’s most popular tourist destinations, such as the overflowing Loboc River, Gov. Arthur Yap said the death toll was based only on partial reports, suggesting it could still rise.
“It is clear that the damage suffered by Bohol is large and far-reaching,” he said. “People have suffered a lot in terms of destroyed homes and agricultural losses.”
About 20 tropical storms hit the Philippines each year, often causing floods and landslides.
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