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Cablegate: Typhoon Reming Casualties Over 1000 in Southern Luzon

DE RUEHML #4877/01 3380922
O 040922Z DEC 06





E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Typhoon Reming Casualties Over 1000 in Southern Luzon

REF: A) Manila 4544 B) Manila 4241


1. Heavy rains from Typhoon Reming on November 30 caused the
massive flow of volcanic debris from the slopes of recently erupted
Mount Mayon in the southern Luzon province of Albay. The mudslides
buried villages and outlying homes and farms, leaving over 1000
people dead or missing and causing millions of dollars in property
damage. At present, there are no reported deaths or injuries of
American citizens. President Arroyo declared a "state of natural
calamity" and released $20 million in government funds for relief
and rehabilitation. She will visit affected areas on December 5.
The Ambassador discussed the tragedy with Philippine Red Cross
President Senator Gordon on December 2, expressing U.S. sympathy and
support. The Embassy has announced $250,000 in assistance to World
Vision and the Red Cross. The Embassy issued a Warden Notice
November 29 and undertook extensive preparations before the typhoon
struck. End Summary.

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Embassy Preparations and Response

2. The Philippines suffered another direct hit from a super-typhoon
when Typhoon Reming (international name Durian) struck the island of
Luzon on November 30 and brought heavy rains and winds up to 220
kilometers per hour. Embassy learned a typhoon was moving toward
the Philippines and issued a Management Notice on November 29
notifying personnel to board doors and windows; check water tanks,
radios, and flashlights; stock up on batteries, candles, water, and
food; and remove outdoor furniture and objects. Embassy personnel
conducted leak tests, filled water tanks, trimmed trees, reserved
hotel rooms, and issued guidance on possible Mission closure and the
availability of emergency quarters and other support for families
facing hardship. Simultaneously with our Management Notice, Embassy
issued a Warden Notice on November 29 warning the public that a
tropical depression east of the Philippine Islands might develop
into a Category 4 strength typhoon within 24 to 48 hours. The
Philippine Department of Education closed all schools on Luzon for
the following day; international schools announced that evening they
would be closed November 30 as well.

Typhoon Reming Triggers Deadly Mudslides

3. With forecasters predicting the typhoon would not reach Manila
until late evening on November 30, Embassy remained open for
business and continued to conduct tests of the telephone tree and
warden system, re-issue lists of neighbors to all community wardens,
alert temporary visitors, and hold preparatory meetings. The
Embassy, schools, government offices, and banks closed for a local
holiday on Friday, December 1. Although the Embassy braced for the
full brunt of the typhoon, Manila was spared any serious damage. It
became clear over the weekend, however, that the typhoon severely
damaged the provinces of Catanduanes, Sorsogon, Albay, Mindoro,
Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Marinduque, Batangas, and Laguna.

4. The southern Luzon province of Albay in Region 5 suffered the
greatest number of casualties and the most extensive damage. The
heavy rains triggered a massive flow of recently deposited ash, mud,
and volcanic rock from the slopes of Mount Mayon, which had a minor
eruption in July. The lahar buried entire communities and outlying
houses and farms surrounding the volcano. Throughout the three-day
weekend, Embassy officers and locally-employed staff worked to
obtain reports and names of casualties from the National Disaster
Coordinating Council (NDCC), and checked names against passport
records. At present, there appear to be no Amcit victims.
Embassy's post-storm assessment determined there was no damage to
facilities or infrastructure.

Casualties and Damage

5. The National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) reported the
following casualty and damage estimates as of 6:00 a.m. on Monday,
December 4:

Casualties: 425 dead, 507 injured, and 599 missing.

Affected Population: The typhoon affected over a million persons
from 1420 communities in the 98 municipalities and nine cities of
Regions 4-A, 4-B, and 5. At present, there are over 20,000 evacuees

MANILA 00004877 002 OF 002

in 72 centers.

Damage: The typhoon demolished about 40,000 homes and partially
damaged more than 100,000. The NDCC initially estimated $5 million
damage to agriculture, mainly coconut groves and banana trees, and
$500,000 damage to infrastructure, such as roads, power lines, and

Condolences and Pledges of Assistance

6. The magnitude of the destruction caused by Typhoon Reming did
not register immediately. The Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC)
issued an appeal for local and international donations on December
2, two days after the typhoon struck. The PNRC requested basic food
and household items and construction materials and set up a bank
account to receive monetary donations. As of December 4, the PNRC
has received 40,000 euros ($53,000) from the Netherlands Red Cross,
100,000 Swiss Francs ($84,000) from the International Federation of
the Red Cross and Red Crescent, and one million Canadian dollars
($874,000) from the Canadian Government. The PNRC noted that New
Zealand had also pledged assistance.

7. On December 3, President Arroyo declared a "state of natural
calamity" and released $20 million in government funds for relief
and rehabilitation. The Director of NDCC confirmed to JUSMAG
representatives at 5:00 p.m. on December 3 that "no requests for
international assistance are being considered at this time." The
statement from Malacanang Palace thanked those countries offering
humanitarian assistance and the following foreign dignitaries for
their condolences:

Pope Benedict XVI
Russian President Vladimir Putin
Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf
Heads of foreign ministries of Spain and Canada

8. Based on the still-emerging casualty counts and destruction
reports, the Philippines is likely to require and request greatly
expanded international assistance. The Embassy has announced USG
assistance channeled through USAID of $250,000 -- $200,000 for World
Vision and $50,000 to the Philippine National Red Cross. USAID is
also looking at the possibility of a flight of relief goods from its
OFDA regional stockpile. The Ambassador spoke with PNRC President
Senator Dick Gordon on December 2 to express sympathy and reassure
him of our willingness to support the emergency effort. Armed
Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff General Esperon told
Ambassador that President Arroyo will visit the typhoon-affected
areas on December 5.


© Scoop Media

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