The weather played spoilsport soon after Christmas as storm Usman struck the Philippines and at least 68 persons lost their lives. Officials of civil defense attribute these to landslides and drownings. There were no strong winds and hence it's not categorized as a typhoon but it led to heavy rainfall in many places. This, in turn, resulted in floods and landslides accompanied by loss of lives and damage to properties and infrastructure.

The Guardian reports the breakup of the death toll so far is 57 in the mountains of Bicol and another 11 on the island of Samar.

Claudio Yucot is the civil defense director of Bicol and he said, “I am afraid this [death toll] will still go up because there are a lot of areas we still have to clear.” He added that the government’s storm alert system does not treat this as a typhoon. Hence, there was no advance warning to caution the people.

Usman disturbed lives in the Philippines

Claudio Yucot explained to a section of the media that Usman did not meet the definition of a typhoon and there was no priority assigned. The people were in a vacation mood and there was no tropical cyclone warning. However, the disturbance has shifted its direction but many areas are in the grip of seasonal rains. That is a hurdle for carrying out rescue and recovery efforts.

Apart from the 68 deaths, there are at least 17 people missing while thousands are without shelter.

The Philippines is used to such vagaries of nature as it faces similar disturbances every year. These take a heavy toll of human lives and properties and disturb the lifestyle of the people as large sections of the population face poverty. In 2013, super typhoon Haiyan left 7,360 dead when it struck the central Philippines

Infrastructure damages due to Usman

According to CNN, Usman damaged the infrastructure with corresponding power outages that affected thousands of people.

Airports, seaports, and bus terminals had to handle stranded travelers because of cancellation of flights and ferry services. The Philippines is regularly at the receiving end of storms and in 2018, there was typhoon Mangkhut that struck with wind speeds of nearly 165 mph and killed 100 people. Mangkhut later went on to slam Hong Kong.

In the case of Usman, the speed of winds was not high but floods and landslides have played havoc with the infrastructure. California has faced such situations in the past and landslides meant nearly $1 billion in damages. People treat these as natural disasters but their origin lies in man’s apathy towards the Environment. Trees are lost in the name of development, the soil loses its binding properties and landslides occur. The only way to arrest this trend is to protect the green cover.