Members of a retrieval team continue their effort to find bodies buried under mud and boulders in Barangay Lucsoon, Naval, Biliran when the village was hit by a major landslide spawned by ‘Urduja.’ (PNP-8)

The province of Biliran, particularly its capital town of Naval, continues to grapple the devastation caused by typhoon ‘Urduja’ that hit the area on December 16.
On Monday (December 18), President Rodrigo Duterte visited Naval wherein he ordered for the restoration of major bridges that were damaged by the typhoon and provide relief to the victims.
Governor Gerardo Espina, Jr., placed the entire province under a state of calamity on Monday due to the ‘massive damage to infrastructure, agricultural crops, livelihood, private and public facilities and buildings’ amounting to P400 million, caused by Urduja.
Biliran, a small-island province, is considered the hard-hit area in the region due to Urduja.
About 30 people have died in the province, majority of them were from Barangay Lucsoon, Naval. About 19 dead bodies, to include a headless remains of a boy, were so far recovered by a retrieval team with the help of heavy equipment from the Department of Public Works and Highways.
As of Tuesday afternoon, nine residents of Lucsoon remain to be missing.
Based on the reports from the regional office of the Philippine National Police (PNP), 46 people have died across the region due to Urduja, either because of a landslide or by drowning.
Aside from Biliran province and several of its towns, the provinces of Samar, Eastern Samar, Northern Samar, and several towns in Leyte and the cities of Ormoc and Tacloban have declared state of calamity due to the damages they have sustained because of Urduja, the most destructive typhoon to hit the region after the onslaught of super typhoon ‘Yolanda’ in 2013.
In Eastern Samar, about 49,459 families were affected due to Urduja which also killed three people.
Damage to infrastructures reached to P1.37 million and P260.40 million worth of crops were destroyed in the province, provincial administrator George Erroba said.
In Northern Samar, 20,851 families or 96,923 individuals from its several towns were displaced due to the massive flooding spawned by Urduja.
Several of its roads and bridges were also washed out due to the flooding.
In Samar, 48,309 families or 216,388 individuals were also affected by the typhoon which also resulted in the destruction of a road in Barangay Laygayon, Pinabacdao which rendered it impassable to vehicles.
About 30,316 families, representing 118,109 individuals from different towns in Leyte, were also displaced by the typhoon which also resulted in the killing of three persons, including a seven-year old boy in Mahaplag.
It was all too sudden.
Thus said Paquito Jampas, a resident and former village chair of Lucsoon which was hit by a tornado followed by a massive landslide that buried several of the residents, to include children.
Jampas, in a phone interview, said that all the residents of the village’s more than 1,870 were inside their houses as Urduja was pounding Lucsoon, just about five kms away from the town proper.
“It was raining heavily coupled with strong winds. Then all of a sudden, we saw a tornado hovering at the top of the mountain, then quickly, there was a landslide cascading down to the houses,” he said.
“I was lucky that our house was not hit by the landslide but just like the rest of the people in the village who survived the landslide incident, I was shocked,” Jampas said.
Jampas said that he is ‘grieving’ on the tragedy that struck their farming-village.
“Practically, we consider ourselves not just mere neighbors but relatives,” the former barangay official said.
Gerardo de la Cruz, school principal of Lucsoon Elementary School, which was not hit by the landslide, said that he is also feeling the grief of the residents on the tragedy.
“Four of those killed were my students and one is a teacher who is teaching in high school,” de la Cruz, in a separate phone interview, said.
de la Cruz said that he is helping in the retrieval operations of those killed by the landslide though he is also a typhoon victim himself.
According to him, their house in Barangay Caraycaray, also in Naval, was totally washed out due to the flooding spawned by Urduja.
It is in Brgy. Caraycaray where a major bridge connecting Biliran to Leyte province was destroyed by Urduja, rendering the island-province isolated from Leyte and the rest of Eastern Visayas.
“We are calling our government to send us relief assistance. We need food and water. Up to this time, we have yet to receive assistance from our government,” de la Cruz said.
The school principal said that he hope that the visit of Pres.Duterte to Naval will hasten the delivery of assistance to them.
Pablito Kuizon,55 and a resident of Brgy. P.I. Garcia, also in Naval, said that aside from lack of assistance, the town continues to experience power blackout since Saturday.
“Gasoline stations in Naval refuse to sell gasoline. We don’t have water after our sources located in Lucsoon and Talustusan were damaged due to the landslides,” Kuizon, who is the provincial chairman of People’s Surge, a group of ‘Yolanda’ survivors, said.
There are five gasoline stations Naval.
Naval was also hit by Yolanda in 2013 although the damage it suffered due to Urduja is comparatively worse, he said.
Dycen Cadiz, National Food Authority (NFA) manager for Biliran, said that there is enough supply of government-issued rice for the province.
Cadiz said that out of the 19,500 bags of rice downloaded from Cebu two weeks ago from the Naval port, 13,000 were for Biliran province.
“It’s enough for eight days but there is still enough NFA supply in the market,” Cadiz, in another phone interview, said.
The price of NFA in the province remains at P25 per kilogram.
She also said that town Mayor Gerard Espina had earlier called all the businessmen operating in the town not to take advantage of the situation and not to increase the prices.
Cadiz said the provincial government has already procured 150 bags while the municipal government of Naval procured 300 bags intended for typhoon survivors.
The towns of Cabucgayan and Kawayan have also procured 120 and 50 bags respectively from them, the NFA provincial manager said.