MANILA, Philippines (HPD) — More than 100 people have died in one of the most destructive storms to hit the Philippines this year, and dozens more are feared missing after they fled in the wrong direction and were buried in a mudslide. More than a million inhabitants were affected by floods in several provinces, authorities said on Monday.
At least 53 of the 105 deaths — most from floods and landslides — were from Maguindánao, in the Bangsamoro autonomous region, which was hit by unusually heavy rains triggered by Tropical Storm Nalgae. The meteor pummeled the country on its way to 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 resumed recovery efforts in the southern town of Kusiong, in Maguindanao province, where it is feared that between 80 and 100 people, including entire families, have been buried as a result of landslide or swept away by flash floods that began Thursday night, said Naguib Sinarimbo, interior minister of an autonomous Muslim region ruled by former separatist guerrillas under a peace deal.
The main government agency for disaster response reported at least 98 deaths from the storm and three provincial governors later reported another seven deaths. The emergency agency also reported that 69 people were injured and there are at least 63 missing.
The storm affected more than 1 million people, including more than 912,000 residents who fled to shelters or the homes of relatives. More than 4,100 homes and 16,260 hectares (40,180 acres) of rice and other crops were damaged by flooding as the country braces for a looming food crisis due to global supply disruptions, officials said.
Sinarimbo said the official figure of missing did not include those feared missing in the massive avalanche that hit Kusiong, because there could be entire families buried, with no one able to provide names and details to authorities.
The disaster in Kusiong, populated mostly by the Teduray ethnic minority, was especially tragic because its more than 2,000 residents have held disaster preparedness drills every year for decades to be ready in the event of a tsunami. But they were not prepared for the dangers that could come from Mount Minandar, Sinarimbo said. The town is in its skirts.
“When people heard the warning bells, they ran and gathered at a church on high ground,” Sinarimbo told The Associated Press on Saturday, citing accounts from Kusiong villagers.
“The problem was that it was not a tsunami that flooded them, but the large amount of water and mud that came down from the mountain,” he said.
In August 1976, a magnitude 8.1 earthquake and subsequent tsunami in the Gulf of Moro occurred around midnight, killing thousands and devastating coastal provinces in one of the deadliest natural disasters in Philippine history. Since then, drills have been carried out in that region.