Alcala, Philippines, Sep 16 – The skeleton of a shattered school, bare walls of homes stripped of their roofs and vast cornfields drowned in muddy floodwaters: this is the aftermath of Typhoon Mangkhut as seen from the air.
A day after the world’s worst storm of the year carved a path of deadly destruction across the northern Philippines’ agricultural heartland, AFP was able to fly over some of the damage in Cagayan province.
Clumps of trees were picked clean of their leaves by the gusting winds of up to 255 kilometres (160 miles) per hour that tore through the region. Multiple homes were missing part or all of their roofs.
Rivers swollen from the typhoon’s torrential downpours overflowed their banks and inundated massive stretches of farmland. Harvest time for much of the region was just weeks away.
“I saw widespread damage to planted crops, mostly corn. The corn crops were destroyed,” said national disaster agency chief Ricardo Jalad.
Among the hundreds of buildings destroyed, an elementary school was missing most of its green roof, the bare bones of its rafters now exposed to the elements. The stacked students’ chairs were visible from above.
Authorities were still assessing the extent of destruction in the remote, hard-to-access area, but 115 schools were believed to have been destroyed.
“It is tearful looking at the damaged schools. The books and computers were really covered with mud and destroyed,” Education Secretary Leonor Briones told reporters.
Damage to schools alone would cost 106 million pesos ($1.9 million), she added, while officials had yet to fully count the cost of flooded crops.
The storm is just one more hardship for the nearly five million people who live in its path, a quarter of whom survive on a few dollars per day.
Authorities say they have yet to make a full assessment of the destruction as six provinces in the northern Philippines remain without power and communication lines. The death toll now stands at 49.
Authorities said they would offer aid to farmers while planning to airlift vegetables, fruit, poultry and fish from the southern island of Mindanao to augment the food supply in the north.