Tropical storm Nalgae kills more than 100 as it lashes Philippines

Dozens more thought to be missing after villagers fled in wrong direction and were buried in mudslide

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More than 100 people have died in one of the most destructive storms to hit the Philippines this year.

Dozens are thought to be missing after villagers fled in the wrong direction and were buried in a mudslide laden with boulders, AP reported.

About two million were left stranded by floods in several provinces, officials said on Monday.

At least 53 of 105 who died — mostly in flash floods and landslides — were from Maguindanao province in a Muslim autonomous region, which was swamped by unusually heavy rains set off by tropical storm Nalgae.

A large contingent of rescuers with bulldozers resumed work in southern Kusiong village in Maguindanao, said Naguib Sinarimbo, the Interior Minister for the Bangsamoro autonomous region.

The storm blew into the South China Sea on Sunday, leaving a trail of destruction across a large part of the archipelago.

The floodwaters damaged more than 4,100 houses and 16,260 hectares of rice and other crops at a time when the country is bracing for a food crisis because of global supply disruption, officials said.

Residents wade through floodwater in Kawit, Philippines. Getty

Mr Sinarimbo said the official tally of missing people did not include most of those feared missing in the huge mudslide that hit Kusiong as entire families may have been buried, with no member left behind to provide details to authorities.

The catastrophe in Kusiong, populated mostly by the Teduray ethnic minority group, is particularly tragic because its more than 2,000 villagers had carried out disaster-preparedness drills every year for decades to brace for a tsunami.

However, they were not as prepared for the dangers that would come from Mount Minandar, where their village lies at the foothills, Mr Sinarimbo said.

“When the people heard the warning bells, they ran up and gathered in a church on a high ground,” Mr Sinarimbo told AP on Saturday, citing accounts by Kusiong villagers.

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

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

A coastguard video given to the media on Monday showed officials helping to search for buried bodies in Kusiong by poking long wooden sticks into the light-brown sludge.

The stormy weather in a swathe of the country hindered transport as millions of Filipinos planned to travel during a long weekend for visits to relatives’ tombs and for family reunions on All Saints’ Day in the largely Roman Catholic nation.

Nearly 200 domestic and international flights were cancelled, Manila’s international airport was briefly closed amid stormy weather and voyages in storm-whipped seas were prohibited by the coastguard, stranding thousands of passengers.

Floodwaters swamped many provinces and cities, trapping some people on their roofs. President Ferdinand Marcos Jr inspected the damage aboard a helicopter over Cavite province Monday and later handed boxes of food and other supplies to storm victims in Noveleta town, where some residents were trapped on their roofs at the height of flooding at 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 batter the Philippine archipelago each year. It is located on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, a region along most of the Pacific Ocean rim where many volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occur, making the nation one of the world’s most disaster-prone.

AP contributed to this report

Updated: October 31, 2022, 2:13 PM
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