Forbes India – Climate, climate change, environment, global warming, nature: Tropical Storm Megi claims 58 people in the Philippines amid landslides and floods


A Coastguard member evacuating local residents from their flooded homes on a makeshift raft in the town of Panitan, Capiz province, as heavy rains from Tropical Storm Megi flooded the area. (Credit: AFP)

Baybay, Philippines: The death toll from landslides and floods in the Philippines rose to 58 on Wednesday, according to official counts, as rescuers unearthed more bodies with their bare hands in villages crushed by avalanches caused by rain.Most of the deaths from Tropical Storm Megi – the strongest to hit the disaster-prone archipelago this year – have been in the central province of Leyte, where a series of landslides have devastated communities.

At least 47 people have died and 27 are missing after waves of soggy earth pounded agricultural settlements around Baybay City over the weekend, local authorities said. More than 100 people were injured, they added.

Aerial photos showed a wide expanse of mud that had rolled down a hillside of coconut palms and engulfed the village of Bunga, where only a few roofs crossed the now transformed landscape.

Three people were also killed in the central province of Negros Oriental and three on the main southern island of Mindanao, according to the national disaster agency.

Search operations for survivors in the village of Pilar – part of Abuyog township in Leyte – resumed at first light on Wednesday, with boats ferrying rescuers to the coastal community of around 400 people.

The operation came a day after a landslide pushed many houses in the village into the sea.

“We have five victims, including one unidentified,” Captain James Mark Ruiz of the Abuyog police told AFP.

Ruiz said more boats were needed to rescue victims and recover bodies as part of ongoing searches after landslides cut off road access to the community.

About 50 survivors were transported from the village, the Office of Fire Protection announced on Facebook on Tuesday.

Photos released by the agency showed buildings crushed or toppled by the force of the landslide and debris in the water.

Medical workers rushed to treat the victims as they were brought ashore, bandaging cuts and providing emergency blankets. A woman had her right arm in a splint.

Raymark Lasco, a radio operator with the Abuyog Disaster Agency, told AFP that “many people” had died and rescue operations were underway.

Port operations suspended

Search operations also resumed around Baybay City after the rains stopped, allowing emergency personnel access to hard-hit areas, Mayor Jose Carlos Cari told CNN Philippines.

“In some barangays (villages), we only do recovery,” Cari said.

Rescuers used their bare hands and shovels to reach victims buried in the landslides.

A Philippine Coast Guard video shared to Facebook on Tuesday showed rescuers carrying a mud-covered woman on a stretcher from one of the devastated villages, while other victims were brought to safety.

The army joined coastguards, police and fire protection personnel in search and rescue efforts, which were hampered by bad weather.

Rising seas, Megi forced dozens of ports to suspend operations and stranded thousands at the start of Holy Week, one of the busiest travel times of the year in the Philippines.

Megi arrived four months after Super Typhoon Rai devastated swaths of the country, killing more than 400 people and leaving hundreds of thousands homeless.

Scientists have long warned that typhoons are getting stronger faster as the planet heats up due to climate change.

The Philippines – ranked among the countries most vulnerable to its impacts – is hit by an average of 20 storms each year.

By Bobbie Alota, with Mikhail Flores in Manila

© Agence France-Presse


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Teresa H. Sadler