Philippine island left without power after deadly typhoon: Red Cross

A Red Cross responder surveying areas affected by Typhoon Goni, in Catanduanes province, the Philippines, on Nov 3, 2020. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

MANILA (AFP) - It could take months to restore power to a Philippine island of 260,000 people devastated by the country's most powerful typhoon this year, the Red Cross said on Tuesday (Nov 3).

Eight towns on Catanduanes were cut off and an estimated 25,000 houses destroyed by Typhoon Goni, which had winds of 225 kilometres per hour when it slammed into the island on Sunday (Nov 1) before sweeping across southern Luzon.

Robert Kaufman, country head for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, told Agence France-Presse there are no telecoms services on the island and it could take months to restore power.

Emergency personnel were trying to reach eight towns that have been cut off by landslides, Kaufman said after a flying visit.

"Building after building, house after house... if it's not destroyed it's damaged," Kaufman said.

"Many people, who were already hanging on by a thread, now their livelihood is really turned upside down and they will need support."

Ferocious winds and torrential rain destroyed at least 25,000 homes on the island and damaged another 45,000, he said, but the numbers are expected to rise.

Goni came a week after Typhoon Molave roared through the same region, where resources had already been stretched by the coronavirus outbreak.

At least 20 people were killed by Goni as it crossed the Philippines, including six on Catanduanes and 14 in nearby Albay province on Luzon, authorities have said.

"The situation is both heartbreaking and also hopeful," said Kaufman, who also inspected the damage in Albay where volcanic mudslides buried scores of homes.

"There was a lot of devastation... but one thing that I saw is an incredibly resilient population."

Around 400,000 people were evacuated ahead of the typhoon which, Kaufman said, "saved lives".

"They have a lot of experience with large-scale storms, with catastrophic typhoons... people knew to vacate the area and take shelter in evacuation centres."

Many of the deaths were people who had left shelters before the typhoon had passed, he said.

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