by Joseph Clyde Famularcano

As the country head into a long weekend in light of Undas, #PaengPH came barreling from the Pacific Ocean to bring havoc on the islands of Visayas and Mindanao. Leaving a trail of casualties in its wake, it continues to traverse the country, leaving communities flooded, homes and properties destroyed and thousands of Filipinos affected. 

Timeline of #PaengPH

On October 26, 8 AM, a low pressure area (LPA) east of Eastern Visayas developed into a tropical depression to be locally known as "Paeng,” the 16th tropical cyclone of 2022 and 4th for the month of October. It has a maximum sustained wind of 45 kilometers per hour (kph) near the center and gusts of up to 55 kph to which it maintained throughout the day. 

The next day, the tropical depression slightly intensified. Its maximum sustained winds increased to 55 kilometers per hour (kph) near the center and gusts of up to 70 kph, forecasted to reach tropical storm category within 24 hours and may become a typhoon by October 29. Tropical Cyclone Wind Signal (TCWS) No. 1 was raised on portions of Samar with addition of other parts of Visayas and Luzon on the next weather update.

“Considering these developments, the public and disaster risk reduction and management offices concerned are advised to take all necessary measures to protect life and property. Persons living in areas identified to be highly or very highly susceptible to these hazards are advised to follow evacuation and other instructions from local officials,”  Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said in its 5 PM bulletin on October 27.

On October 29, Paeng, now a severe tropical storm with maximum sustained winds of 95 kilometers per hour (kph) near the center and gustiness of up to 160 kph made its first landfall in Virac, Catanduanes on October 29, 1:10 AM. It also passed through Camarines Sur, Buenavista, Quezon Province and Marinduque. TCWS No. 1, 2 & 3 were raised in various parts of the country. Though the possibility of Paeng being a typhoon while it is inside the Philippine Area of Responsibility has been dismissed by the weather bureau, it has left massive destruction and claimed many lives in parts of Visayas and Mindanao. 

Aftermath of the Tropical Cyclone
As Severe Tropical Storm (STS) Paeng knocked on the door of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), communities and authorities were caught off guard by the massive and and intense downpour of rain, causing massive floods and widespread landslides.

“Pinaghandaan ng Bangsamoro government ang Bagyong Paeng, bago pa man ito tumama sa ating rehiyon.  Gayon pa man, ang walang tigil na pagbuhos ng ulan, simula kagabi ay nagdulot ng pag-apaw ng mga ilog at dagat, na siya naman nagdulot ng landslide at matinding pagbaha,” BARMM Chief Minister Ahod Ebrahim said in a video posted on Facebook. The top official of the region also said that not less than 10 municipalities in Maguindanao, including Cotabato City, were heavily affected.

Of the 45 recorded deaths by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (NDRRMC) as of early October 29, 40 were from BARMM. The numbers may also climb up as in the indigenous village of Kusiong in Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao, a mudslide is alleged to have killed at least 60 people, BARMM Interior Minister Naguid Sinarimbo said. A search and rescue operation in the so-called "Ground Zero" is now ongoing with personnels deployed and heavy equipment being utilized. Bodies, predominantly children, have been found.

Photos and videos from Mindanao have been circulating social media, paired with the hashtag #MindanaoNeedsHelp as netizens call for help and assistance in the storm-stricken part of the country. Homes and establishments are reportedly submerged, with some destroyed due to the severe storm and other causes such as landslides and mudslides. There are also wrecked roads and bridges leaving some places to be inaccessible. 

"Maybe a lot of people in Luzon doesn’t know what’s really going on in Mindanao, people there are in needs of rescues and help, madami na pong casualties [crying emoji]," Aki Pabalinas, Aki Pabalinas wrote in Twitter accompanied with photos mirroring the current state of Cotabato City.

In the Bicol Region, communities became ghost towns as massive evacuations were made to prevent fatalities. According to the Office of Civil Defense - Bicol, 15,426 families or 72,089 individuals have been evacuated since October 28. Camarines Sur leads the tally with 7,716 families or 41,675 individuals evacuated followed by Albay with 5,861 families or 23,408 individuals. Catanduanes has 598 families or 2,715 persons evacuated; Camarines Norte, 594 families or 2,244 individuals; Sorsogon, 341 families or 1,201 individuals; Masbate, 309 families or 846 individuals, and Naga City, seven families. On a larger note, pursuant to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)'s Disaster Response Operations Monitoring and Information Center (DROMIC) Report No. 7, around 97,206 families are affected by the tropical cyclone, with 14,893 families displaced.

Several individuals and groups have launched donation drives to help those devastated by Paeng.