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Victims of the storm in the Philippines were afraid of the tsunami and ran to the landslide | WGN 720 Radio

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Victims of a huge storm-triggered landslide in a coastal Philippine village once ravaged by a killer tsunami mistakenly thought a tidal wave was coming, ran for higher ground toward a mountain and were buried alive by a boulder-laden deluge, an official said. on Sunday.

At least 18 bodies, including children, have been dug up by rescuers from a huge mud mound that now covers most of the village of Kusiong in southern Maguindanao province, one of the worst hit by Tropical Storm Nalgae, which hit the northwestern Philippines. early sunday.

Officials fear that another 80 to 100 people, including entire families, may have been buried by the deluge or washed away by flash floods in Kusiong from Thursday night into early Friday, according to Naguib Sinarimba, the interior minister of the Muslim-majority autonomous region, which governs former separatist guerrillas.

Nalgae, which had a wide swath of rain, left at least 61 people dead in eight provinces and one city in the Philippine archipelago, including Kusiong, and a trail of destruction in one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries.

The disaster in Kusion, populated mainly by the Tedura ethnic minority, was tragic because more than 2,000 villagers have been conducting 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, 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.

Kushiong, which lies between Moro Bay and the 1,464-foot (446-meter) Minandar Mountain, was one of the worst affected by the 1976 disaster, and the village has never forgotten the tragedy. Elderly villagers who survived the tsunami and massive earthquake relayed the nightmare 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.

The National Disaster Response Agency reported 22 people missing from the storm in several provinces. Sinarimba said many of the missing in Kusion were not included in official government records because entire families may have been buried, leaving no family members to report names and details to authorities.

Army Lt. Col. Dennis Almarata, who visited the village affected by the landslide on Saturday, said the muddy deluge buried about 60 rural houses in an area of ​​about 5 hectares (12 acres). He did not give an estimate of how many villagers may have been buried, but described the scale of the landslide as “overwhelming” and said the overnight disaster could have unfolded quickly.

Regional Army Commander Maj. Gen. Roy Galida has been ordered to head up an emergency command center to lead search and intelligence efforts in Kusiong, officials said.

Stormy weather across much of the country prompted the coast guard to ban sea travel in dangerously rough seas 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 nation.

More than 100 domestic and international flights were canceled, Manila International Airport was briefly closed due to stormy weather, and sea travel in the storm-ravaged sea was prohibited by the Coast Guard, leaving thousands of passengers stranded.

Floodwaters inundated many provinces and cities, trapping people on their roofs, and more than 700 houses were damaged. More than 168,000 people fled to evacuation camps. President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. expressed disappointment at the high death toll during a televised meeting with disaster mitigation officials on Saturday.

“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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