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Hurricane Rai lashes southern Philippines, 169 useless

MANILA, Philippines: Last week, Typhoon Rai lashed the southeastern Philippines, and authorities now say 169 are known to have died.

The typhoon toppled trees, destroying houses, knocking down power supplies and causing the evacuation of some 100,000 people.

Coast guard personnel rescued people stranded by chest-deep waters in the southern city of Cagayan de Oro, with footage showing two rescuers struggling to keep a month-old baby inside a laundry basin above the waters, while shielded from the wind and rain with an umbrella.

According to forecasts, sustained winds of 121 miles per hour, and gusts of up to 168 mph, further strengthened Rai as it blew from the Pacific Ocean into the Siargao Islands.

In a telephone interview with DZMM radio, Teresa Lozano, a resident of eastern MacArthur town in coastal Leyte province, said, “I am scared and praying here in my house that this stops now. The wind outside is so strong it is cutting down trees.”

Disaster-response officials stressed that some 10,000 villages are in the projected path of the typhoon, which is one of the strongest to hit the Philippines this year.

All sea vessels were also grounded by the Coast Guard, stranding nearly 4,000 passengers, along with ferry and cargo ship workers in dozens of southern and central ports. Several domestic flights were canceled and schools and workplaces were closed.

The government’s disaster-response agency said more than 98,000 people have been evacuated to safety, many in evacuation centers, which has complicated efforts to keep people safely distanced after authorities detected the country’s first cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

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The Philippines is among the hardest-hit in Southeast Asia by the pandemic, but vaccination efforts in provinces likely to experience stormy weather were halted due to Rai.