Many of the dead were caught in landslides triggered by torrential rain from Tropical Storm Megi. The death toll from landslides and floods in the Philippines has risen to 58 as rescuers dug up more bodies with their bare hands in villages buried in rain-fuelled landslides.
Most of the deaths from tropical storm Megi – the strongest to hit the Southeast Asian archipelago this year – were in the central province of Leyte.
At least 47 people were confirmed to have been killed and more than 100 injured after waves of mud smashed into some six villages around Baybay City over the weekend, local authorities said. Some 27 people remain missing. Army, police and other rescuers were struggling with mud and unstable heaps of earth and debris to find them.
“We are saddened by this dreadful incident that caused an unfortunate loss of lives and destruction of properties,” Army Brigade Commander Noel Vestuir, who was helping oversee the search and rescue, told The Associated Press news agency. Three people were also killed in the central province of Negros Oriental and three others on the main southern island of Mindanao, according to the national disaster agency.
Search operations for survivors in Pilar village – also in Leyte – resumed at first light on Wednesday. Rescuers travelled by boat to the coastal community of approximately 400 people, a day after a landslide pushed most houses into the sea.
“We have five casualties, one unidentified,” James Mark Ruiz of Abuyog police told the AFP news agency. About 50 survivors have been rescued from the village, the Bureau of Fire Protection said on Facebook on Tuesday.
Raymark Lasco, a radio operator at the Abuyog disaster agency, said that “many people” had died. “I can’t give you exact details … because our operation is ongoing,” he said.
The military has joined the coast guard, police and fire protection teams in the search and rescue efforts, which have been hampered by bad weather. “The challenge is, it’s continuing to rain and we cannot immediately clear the landslide areas,” Vestuir said.
Whipping up seas, Megi forced dozens of ports to suspend operations and stranded thousands of people at the start of Holy Week, one of the busiest travel periods of the year in the Philippines. Megi came four months after super typhoon Rai devastated swathes of the country, killing more than 400 and leaving hundreds of thousands homeless.
Scientists have long warned that typhoons are strengthening more rapidly as the planet becomes warmer due to climate change. The Philippines is hit by an average of 20 storms every year.