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More than 200 people are dead and 160 missing after a tropical storm devastated the southern Philippines, unleashing flash flooding and setting off landslides.
- The Philippines is battered by about 20 typhoons and storms each year
- Villagers have been moved to emergency shelters while thousands are stranded in airports and seaports
- Earlier in the week, a tropical storm left more than 50 people dead and 31 others missing, mostly due to landslides
More than 70,000 people have been forced from their homes and a state of emergency has been declared in several areas on Mindanao, the island worst hit by the storm.
Most of the deaths from tropical storm Tembin were in the hard-hit provinces of Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur and on the Zamboanga Peninsula, according to an initial government report on storm casualties.
Disaster officials said many villagers had ignored warnings to leave coastal areas and move away from riverbanks, and got swept away when flash floods and landslides struck.
Romina Marasigan, of the government’s disaster response agency, earlier said authorities had reported at least 75 deaths were due to landslides and sudden surges of floodwaters, but added those initial reports needed to be confirmed.
An entire village was buried by a mudslide, according to reports.
It is the latest disaster to hit the Philippines, which is battered by about 20 typhoons and storms each year, making the archipelago that lies on the Pacific typhoon belt one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries.
In Bukidnon province, one resident said people were swept away after they were trapped by rising floodwaters in their homes.
“There used to be 103 houses here, but when the flash flood happened, everything was washed out,” said rescue worker Vic Mar.
“So that’s what happened here. All their homes and livelihoods gone.
“And we have 90 families, as of today, that are affected and listed to be in our evacuation centres.”
Bong Edding, mayor of Zamboanga del Norte province’s Sibuco town, said a search and rescue operation was underway for more than 30 people swept away by flash floods in the fishing village of Anungan.
Five bodies have been recovered so far in the village.
“The floodwaters from the mountain came down so fast and swept away people and houses,” Mr Edding said.
“It’s really sad because Christmas is just a few days away, but these things happen beyond our control.”
Mr Edding blamed years of logging in the mountains near Anungan for the tragedy that unfolded on Friday, adding that he and other officials would move to halt the logging operations.
The rest of the deaths were reported in Lanao del Norte, where floodwaters from a mountain also swept away several riverside houses and villagers, and Lanao del Sur, police and officials said.
Thousands of villagers moved to emergency shelters and thousands more were stranded in airports and seaports after the coast guard prohibited ferries from venturing out in the rough seas and several flights were cancelled.
Philippine Red Cross chairman Richard Gordon said a lot of farmland would have been wiped out by the storm, which will create economic challenges.
“A lot of people who have lost their crops … it’s going to be a very, very, very sad Christmas for many because of the damage and because of the deaths that have occurred and the injuries,” he said.
An inter-island ferry sank off north-eastern Quezon province on Thursday after being lashed by fierce winds and big waves, leaving at least five people dead.
More than 250 passengers and crewmen were rescued.
Tembin, known locally as Vinta, strengthened and picked up speed late Saturday, packing maximum sustained winds of 105 kilometres per hour and gusts of up to 145kph.
It struck the southern section of western Palawan province late on Saturday and was forecast to blow away from the southern Philippines on Sunday toward the South China Sea.
“It is unfortunate that another tropical cyclone, Vinta, made its presence felt so near Christmas,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr said, adding that food packs and other aid were being distributed in storm-hit communities.
Earlier in the week, a tropical storm left more than 50 people dead and 31 others missing, mostly due to landslides, and damaged more than 10,000 houses in the central Philippines before weakening and blowing into the South China Sea.
Among the areas battered by Tembin was Marawi, a lakeside city in Lanao del Sur that is still recovering from a five-month siege by pro-Islamic State group extremists that left more than 1,000 people dead.