MANILA, Philippines – Nearly 100 people died in one of the most destructive storms to hit the Philippines this year and dozens more are missing after villagers fled in the wrong direction and were buried in a boulder-laden mudslide, while more than a million others were submerged by floodwaters in several provinces, officials said on Monday.
At least 53 of the 98 people who died – mostly in floods and landslides – were from Maguindanao in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, which was swamped by unusually heavy rains triggered by Tropical Storm Nalgae. The storm blew out of the country and into the South China Sea on Sunday, leaving a trail of destruction across a wide swath of the archipelago.
A large contingent of rescuers equipped with bulldozers and backhoes resumed recovery work in the southern village of Kusiong in the hard-hit province of Maguindanao, where 80 to 100 people, including entire families, were reportedly buried by a rock-laden landslide. or swept away by flash floods that began Thursday night, said Naguib Sinarimbo, interior minister of a Muslim autonomous region ruled by former separatist guerrillas under a peace pact.
The government’s main disaster response agency also reported that 69 people were injured in the assault and at least 63 others were still missing.
More than a million people were lashed by the storm, including more than 912,000 villagers who fled to evacuation centers or relatives’ homes. More than 4,100 homes and 16,260 hectares (40,180 acres) of rice and other crops were damaged by floodwaters as the country braced for a looming food crisis due to supply disruptions globally, officials said.
Sinarimbo said the official tally of missing persons did not include most of those who feared they could disappear in the massive mudslide that hit Kusiong, as entire families may have been buried and no members were left. been left to provide names and details to authorities.
The Kusiong disaster, populated mainly by the Teduray ethnic minority group, was particularly tragic as its more than 2,000 villagers have carried out disaster preparedness drills every year for decades to prepare for a tsunami due to a history murderous. But they weren’t as prepared for the dangers that could come from Mount Minandar, where their village sits at the foot of the hills, Sinarimbo said.
“When people heard the warning bells, they ran and gathered in a church on high ground,” Sinarimbo told The Associated Press on Saturday, citing testimonies from Kusiong villagers.
“The problem is that it was not a tsunami that inundated them but a large volume of water and mud that came down from the mountain,” he said.
In August 1976, an 8.1 magnitude earthquake and tsunami in the Gulf of Moro that struck around midnight claimed thousands of lives and devastated coastal provinces in one of the deadliest natural disasters in the country. Philippine history.
Located between the Gulf of Moro and the 446-meter (1,464-foot) Mount Minandar, Kusiong was among the hardest hit by the 1976 disaster. The village has never forgotten the tragedy. Elderly villagers who survived the tsunami and powerful earthquake passed the nightmarish story to their children, warning them to be prepared.
“Every year they hold drills to prepare for a tsunami. Someone has been assigned to sound the alarm and they have designated high ground where people should run,” Sinarimbo said. “Villagers even learned the sound of a big wave approaching based on the memory of tsunami survivors.”
“But there wasn’t as much focus on mountainside geohazards,” he said.
Bulldozers, backhoes and loaders were brought to Kusiong on Saturday along with more than 100 army, police and volunteer rescuers from other provinces, but they were unable to dig at a spot where survivors had said the church was below because the muddy mound was still dangerously soft, officials said.
Stormy weather across much of the country hampered transportation as millions of Filipinos planned to travel over a long weekend to visit relatives’ graves and for family gatherings on All Saints’ Day in the predominantly Catholic nation. Roman.
Nearly 200 domestic and international flights were canceled, Manila International Airport was briefly closed in stormy weather and travel in rough seas was banned by the coast guard, stranding thousands of passengers.
Floodwaters inundated many provinces and cities, trapping some people on their rooftops. President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. expressed his disappointment at the high death toll during a televised meeting Saturday with disaster mitigation officials.
“We should have done better,” Marcos Jr. said. to evacuate them away from flash floods.”
About 20 typhoons and storms hit the Philippine archipelago every year. It is located on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, a region along much of the rim of the Pacific Ocean where numerous volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occur, making the nation one of the most prone disasters in the world.