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Nearly 100 people dead, dozens missing in storm-ravaged Philippines | WGN 720 Radio

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Nearly 100 people have died in one of the most destructive storms to hit the Philippines this year, with dozens more feared missing in a landslide-hit hillside village, while more over a million others were inundated by floodwaters in several parts of the province, officials said Monday.

At least 53 of the 98 people who died – mostly from floods and landslides – were from Maguindanao in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, which was inundated by unusually heavy rains caused by Tropical Storm Nalgae. On Sunday, the storm exited the country into the South China Sea, leaving a trail of destruction across much of the archipelago.

A large contingent of rescuers with bulldozers and excavators resumed the search in the southern village of Kusiong in hard-hit Maguindanao province, where 80 to 100 people, including entire families, are believed to have been buried by a boulderslide or swept away by flash floods that began Thursday night, said Naguib Sinnarimba, interior minister of the Muslim autonomous region, which is ruled by former separatist guerrillas as part of a peace pact.

The government’s main disaster response agency also said 69 people were injured in the attack and at least 63 people remain missing.

More than 1 million people were affected by the storm, including more than 912,000 villagers who fled to evacuation centers 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 floodwaters as the country braced for a looming food crisis due to global supply disruptions, officials said.

Sinarimba said the official count of missing people does not include most of those feared missing from the huge mudslide that hit Kushiong because entire families may have been buried, leaving no single member who b reported the names and detailed information to the authorities.

The disaster in Kusion, populated mainly by the Tedura ethnic minority, was particularly tragic because the village’s more than 2,000 residents have held disaster preparedness drills every year for decades to prepare for tsunamis because of its deadly history. But they were not so prepared for the danger that could come from Mount Minandar, where their village lies in the foothills, Sinarimba said.

“When people heard the bells, they ran up and gathered at the church on the hill,” Sinarimba told The Associated Press on Saturday, citing reports from Kusiong villagers.

“The problem was that they were not flooded by the tsunami, but by 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 struck the Moro Bay near midnight, leaving thousands dead and devastating coastal provinces in one of the deadliest natural disasters in Philippine history.

Located between Mora Bay and the 446-meter (1,464 ft) Mount Minandar, Kusiong was one of the worst affected by the 1976 disaster. The village never forgot the tragedy. Elderly villagers who survived the tsunami and massive earthquake relayed the nightmarish story to their children, warning them to be prepared.

“Every year they conduct tsunami preparedness drills. Someone was instructed to sound the alarm bells and they marked the heights where people should run,” Sinarimba said. “Villagers were even taught the sound of a large wave approaching, based on the memories of survivors of the tsunami.”

“But not much attention has been paid to geohazards on the mountainside,” he said.

Bulldozers, excavators and forklifts were brought to Kusiong on Saturday, along with more than 100 rescuers from the army, police and volunteers from other provinces, but they were unable to excavate where survivors said the church lay because of the mud the mound was still dangerously soft, officials said.

Stormy weather disrupted much of the country as millions of Filipinos planned to travel over the long weekend to visit the graves of relatives and reunite with families on All Saints’ Day in the predominantly Roman Catholic country.

Nearly 200 domestic and international flights were canceled, Manila International Airport was briefly closed due to the stormy weather, and the Coast Guard banned travel in storm-ravaged seas, stranding thousands of passengers.

Floodwaters inundated many provinces and cities, trapping some people on their roofs. President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. expressed disappointment at the high death toll during a televised meeting Saturday with disaster mitigation officials.

“We should have done better,” Marcos Jr. said. “We couldn’t have anticipated that the volume of water was going to be so high, so we weren’t able to warn people and then evacuate them out of the way of the coming 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 Pacific coast that is prone to volcanic eruptions and earthquakes, making the country one of the most disaster-prone in the world.


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