UN: Typhoon Odette destruction 'badly underestimated'

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 21) — A month after the wrath of Typhoon Odette (international name: Rai), the scale of devastation it caused in parts of the Visayas and Mindanao has been "badly underestimated," according to the United Nations.

"We can say today after one month that the Typhoon Rai was the world's second deadliest disaster of 2021," Gustavo Gonzalez, UN resident and humanitarian coordinator for the Philippines, said in a virtual briefing.

"The magnitude of the damage is very close to the destruction caused, as you remember by Typhoon Haiyan in 2013," he added.

As of January 1, Philippine authorities have recorded 407 fatalities (of which only 75 have been confirmed), as well as 1,147 injuries and 82 people missing due to the deadly typhoon. Damage to agriculture and infrastructure reached around ₱6.9 billion and ₱16.6 billion, respectively. 

Gonzalez also said their assessment found that nine million people were affected by Odette.

"In terms of the damaged or destroyed houses, the number has increased seven times from 200,000 to over 1.5 million, which is almost one third more than at the time of Typhoon Haiyan. And in terms of casualties, we have almost doubled the numbers of people being killed, as a result of the typhoon, from 177 at the time of the first assessment, and now we confirm 405 people," he added.

"We are talking about a crisis within a crisis," Gonzalez said, referring to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the country.

He added that the pandemic situation in the Philippines has affected their operations and response for affected communities.