Super Typhoon Rai leaves 12 dead, 'widespread devastation' in Philippines

By Renee Duff,

A clearer picture was beginning to emerge Friday of the utter destruction left behind by Super Typhoon Rai in the Philippines.

The fierce storm, described as "one of the most powerful typhoons to ever hit the southern Philippines" by the chairman of the Philippine Red Cross, has left at least a dozen people dead and completely cut off some communities from the outside world.


The Philippine Coast Guard released aerial pictures on Friday of homes that were leveled and left unrecognizable by the fury of Rai.

Siargao Island sustained significant damage as the typhoon first roared ashore Thursday afternoon, local time, with the equivalent strength of a Category 5 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale (maximum sustained winds of at least 156 mph) in the Atlantic or East Pacific basins. In total, Rai made eight landfalls as it weaved through the various islands that make up the south-central Philippines, according to the country's National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

This natural-color image of Typhoon Rai was acquired in the early afternoon on Thursday by the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite on the Suomi-NPP satellite. Image courtesy of NASA Earth Observatory

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies called Rai "a terrible surprise for the festive season" as it severely flooded cities and towns, tore homes and businesses to shreds and littered the ground with downed power lines, snapped trees and other debris.

"The full picture is only just starting to emerge, but it is clear there is widespread devastation. It is heartbreaking to see homes, Red Cross offices and even a hospital ripped apart. We hold grave fears for people in areas including Siargao and other islands that still have no communication and contact with the outside world," Alberto Bocanegra, IFRC Head of the Philippine Country Office, said in a statement.

The islands of Mindanao and Nonoc also sustained significant devastation.

RELATED Deadly outburst of extreme weather blitzes center of U.S.

Government officials were having difficultly assessing the full scope of the damage due to the extensive loss of telecommunications in the affected provinces, Al Jazeera reported. Flooded roadways and extensive debris are adding more challenges to rescuers attempting to reach the hardest-hit areas.

Emergency response teams have been working around the clock to rescue those still trapped in floodwaters, prevent additional loss of life and provide first aid, food and clean water. As of Friday night, local time, the death toll from the typhoon stood at 12, with seven people reported missing.


Areas farther to the west were not spared Rai's fury as the storm maintained its super typhoon status through the south-central Philippines.

RELATED Full 'Cold Moon' to illuminate weekend before Christmas

Video emerged at the height of the storm that showed harrowing rescues being performed by the Philippine Coast Guard. Two members of the Coast Guard rescued a 1-month-old baby in chest-deep floodwaters in Cagayan de Oro. The men were seen pushing along what appeared to be a barrel with the baby in it through the swift-moving water. Another video showed rescuers carrying a person through the rushing water and safely onto a vehicle.

In Cebu City, winds howled through the streets as people attempted to seek shelter from the storm's ferocity wherever they could.

COVID-19 vaccinations of millions of people were delayed even prior to the typhoon's arrival, as the country's second three-day vaccination drive was cut from 17 regions to six due to the expected impacts.

AccuWeather's team of meteorologists had been monitoring the area of the West Pacific in which Rai formed more than a week ahead of time. Rai became a tropical storm Monday over the southern Philippine Sea, before strengthening to a typhoon by midweek and rapidly intensifying into a super typhoon Thursday as it closed in on the Philippines.


The fact that Rai was still in the process of strengthening at the time of landfall added even more fury to the storm's wind, rain and storm surge.

Rai, which lost super typhoon status on Friday, has since emerged into the South China Sea but remains powerful with the equivalent intensity of a Category 2 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale (maximum sustained winds of 96-110 mph).

AccuWeather meteorologists say Rai can briefly regain strength as it travels west to west-northwest early this weekend before curving to the north into cooler waters, where it will encounter a less favorable environment for tropical systems.

"The center of Rai is expected to remain just off the coast of southeastern Vietnam on Sunday but will bring heavy rain and damaging winds along with a dangerous storm surge," AccuWeather senior meteorologist Tyler Roys said.

Significant flooding and mudslides will be possible, especially in the mountainous areas of eastern Vietnam. Forecasters warn of a high risk to lives and property due to these hazards, along with the potential for tree damage, power outages and travel delays.

Rain and wind will reach the southeastern coast of the Chinese province of Hainan Sunday night into Monday, local time, spreading farther northeastward early next week. By this point, Rai will have lost much of its wind intensity but could still pack enough rainfall to produce localized flooding problems.


Latest Headlines


Follow Us