More than 100 dead and dozens missing in storm-ravaged Philippines

Manila, Philippines — More than 100 people died in one of the most destructive storms to hit the Philippines this year and dozens more are missing after villagers fled in the wrong direction and were buried in a mudslide loaded with rocks. Nearly two million more have been overwhelmed by flooding in several provinces, officials said on Monday.

At least 53 of the 105 people who died – mostly in flash floods and landslides – were from Maguindanao province in a Muslim autonomous region, which was swamped by unusually heavy rains triggered by Tropical Storm Nalgae. The storm ripped through the South China Sea on Sunday, leaving a trail of destruction across a wide swath of the archipelago.

A large contingent of rescuers with bulldozers, backhoes and sniffer dogs have resumed recovery work in the southern village of Kusiong in the hard-hit Maguindanao region, where 80 to 100 people, including entire families, are believed to have been buried by a rock-laden landslide. or swept away by flash floods that began overnight Thursday, said Naguib Sinarimbo, the interior minister of the Bangsamoro autonomous region ruled by former separatist guerrillas under a peace pact.

The government’s main disaster response agency said there had been at least 98 deaths from the storm, with seven more fatalities reported later by three provincial governors. At least 69 people were injured and 63 others are still missing.

About 1.9 million people were lashed by the storm, including more than 975,000 villagers who fled to evacuation centers or relatives’ homes. At least 4,100 homes and 16,260 hectares (40,180 acres) of rice and other crops were damaged by floodwaters as the country braced for a looming food crisis due to supply disruptions globally, officials said.

Sinarimbo said the official tally of missing persons did not include most of those who feared they could disappear in the massive mudslide that hit Kusiong, as entire families may have been buried and no members were left. been left to provide names and details to authorities.

The Kusiong disaster, populated mainly by the Teduray ethnic minority group, was particularly tragic as its more than 2,000 villagers have carried out disaster preparedness drills every year for decades to prepare for a tsunami due to a history murderous. But they weren’t as prepared for the dangers that could come from Mount Minandar, where their village sits at the foot of the hills, Sinarimbo said.

“When people heard the warning bells, they ran and gathered in a church on high ground,” Sinarimbo told The Associated Press on Saturday, citing testimonies from Kusiong villagers.

“The problem is that it was not a tsunami that inundated them, but a large volume of water and mud that came down from the mountain,” he said.

In August 1976, an 8.1 magnitude earthquake and tsunami in the Gulf of Moro that struck around midnight claimed thousands of lives and devastated coastal provinces in one of the deadliest natural disasters in the country. Philippine history.

Located between the Gulf of Moro and the 446-meter (1,464-foot) Mount Minandar, Kusiong was among the hardest hit by the 1976 disaster. The village has never forgotten the tragedy. Elderly villagers who survived the tsunami and powerful earthquake passed the nightmarish story to their children, warning them to be prepared.

“Every year they hold drills to prepare for a tsunami. Someone was in charge of sounding the alarm and they designated high ground where people should run,” Sinarimbo said. “Villagers even learned the sound of a big wave approaching based on the memory of tsunami survivors.”

“But there wasn’t as much focus on mountainside geohazards,” he said.

There were more than 100 army, police and volunteer rescuers from other provinces on Saturday in Kusiong, but they were unable to dig at a spot where survivors said the church was below because the muddy mound was still dangerously soft, officials said.

Coastguard video provided to media on Monday shows some of its men helping to search for bodies buried in Kusiong by driving long wooden sticks into the muddy, light-brown mud.

Stormy weather across much of the country hampered transportation as millions of Filipinos planned to travel over a long weekend to visit relatives’ graves and for family gatherings on All Saints’ Day in the predominantly Catholic nation. Roman.

Nearly 200 domestic and international flights were canceled, Manila International Airport was briefly closed in stormy weather and travel in rough seas was banned by the coast guard, stranding thousands of passengers.

Floodwaters inundated many provinces and cities, trapping some people on their rooftops. President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. inspected the extent of the damage from a helicopter over Cavite province on Monday and then delivered boxes of food and other supplies to storm victims in the town of Noveleta, where some residents were trapped on their roofs at the height of flooding over the weekend.

“The powerful surge of water destroyed the flood controls, so there was so much flooding,” he told a news conference.

About 20 typhoons and storms hit the Philippine archipelago every year. It is located on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, a region along much of the rim of the Pacific Ocean where numerous volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occur, making the nation one of the most prone disasters in the world.