Tropical storm death toll reaches 26

Children make their way past damaged houses and trees in Barangay San Mateo Borongan, eastern Samar, after Tropical Storm Kai-Tak devastated the area
Picture: AFP/ Alren Beronio

Thousands displaced and many missing in Philippines disaster

Landslides triggered by Tropical Storm Kai-Tak have killed 26 people and 23 more are missing in the eastern Philippines, authorities said yesterday. The deaths were reported in the small island province of Biliran, a day after the storm pounded the east of the archipelago.

Kai-Tak tore across the major islands of Samar and Leyte on Saturday, toppling power lines in 39 towns and cities and damaging roads and bridges, the national disaster agency said.

About 87 700 people were forced from their homes in the region. But the previous death toll had stood at just three.

Provincial disaster risk reduction and management officer Sofronio Dacillo said the deaths occurred in four towns in Biliran at the weekend.

“Rocks as big as cars fell on concrete houses after three days of continuous, heavy rain,” Biliran police information officer Lilibeth Morillo said as she described a landslide in the mountainous district of Lucsoon.

“There were six families living there but they did not evacuate,” she said. Seven bodies were recovered in the area.

Gerardo Espina, governor of the island province just east of Leyte, gave the same overall death toll of 26, with 23 missing.

Kai-Tak weakened yesterday afternoon with gusts of up to 80km/h, and was downgraded to a tropical depression, state weather forecasters said.

President Rodrigo Duterte said yesterday he would fly to the storm-hit areas.

“There is so much destruction there. There are places where the bridge was destroyed and I would like to see for myself what government can do better,” he said.

Disaster officials warned that more floods and landslides were possible and 15 500 passengers were stranded because ferry services remained suspended in parts of the region.

“I’ve been stranded for three days, sleeping in the bus, and I just want to get home to my family for Christmas,” farmer Eliaquin Pilapil, 55, said from the town of Matnog in the eastern province of Sorsogon.

The Christmas holidays are a busy travel season in the predominantly Catholic Philippines, with people heading home to the provinces.

The nation is battered by about 20 major storms each year.

Samar and Leyte bore the brunt in 2013 of Super Typhoon Haiyan, which left more than 7 350 people dead or missing.

In the Leyte city of Tacloban, Saturday’s storm brought flash floods of up to 1.5m and strong winds that left the city without power and water, according to its disaster office chief.

“The storm moved slowly – it brought so much rain to our city. The floods resulted from four days of rain,” Tacloban’s disaster risk reduction office head Ildebrando Bernadas said.

Bernadas said 82% of Tacloban’s districts were flooded.

The storm also damaged farms and crops, bringing more misery to people recovering from Haiyan’s destruction.

“Haiyan destroyed our coconut trees. We planted lettuce and eggplant but the new storm took them away too.

“It’s devastating,” Letye farmer Remedios Serato, 78, said.

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