At least 31 killed by floods and landslides in southern Philippines

COTABATO, Philippines –

Flash floods and landslides triggered by torrential rains inundated a province in the southern Philippines, killing at least 31 people, leaving nine others missing and trapping some residents on their roofs, authorities said Friday.

Most of the victims were swept away by floodwaters and drowned or suffered debris-filled landslides in three villages in hard-hit Maguindanao province, said Naguib Sinarimbo, interior minister of a five-province Muslim autonomous region run by ex-guerrillas

“The amount of rainwater that fell overnight was unusually (heavy) and flowed down mountainsides and swollen rivers,” Sinarimbo told The Associated Press by telephone.

“I hope that the number of victims does not increase further, but there are still some communities that we have not reached,” Sinarimbo said, adding that the rains had subsided since Friday morning, causing the floods to begin to recede. in various towns.

Sinarimbo said that based on reports from mayors, governors and disaster response officials, 26 people drowned mostly in the neighboring coastal towns of Datu Odin Sinsuat and Datu Blah Sinsuat and another five died in the town of Upi, all in Maguindanao.

Five people were missing in Datu Blah Sinsuat, according to the city’s mayor, Marshall Sinsuat, and Sinarimbo said another four people were missing elsewhere.

A rescue team has been dispatched to Kusiong, a tribal village at the foot of a mountain in Datu Odin Sinsuat, to verify reports that flooding and landslides have also affected houses in the community, Sinarimbo said. There were no immediate reports of casualties, he said.

The unusually heavy rains that flooded several towns in Maguindanao and outlying provinces in a mountainous region with swampy plains were caused by Tropical Storm Nalgae, which was expected to hit the country’s east coast from the Pacific Ocean on Saturday, according to forecasters.

Flooding increased rapidly in many low-lying villages, forcing some residents to climb onto their roofs, where they were rescued by army troops, police and volunteers, Sinarimbo said. He said many of the flooded areas had not been flooded for years, including Cotabato city, where he lives.

“In an area of ​​Upi, you can only see the attic of a school above the flood water,” disaster response official Nasrullah Imam said, referring to a flooded town in Maguindanao.

Broad rain bands from Nalgae, the 16th storm to hit the Philippine archipelago this year, allowed it to dump rain in the south of the country, although the storm was blowing further north, government meteorologist Sam Duran said.

As of late Friday afternoon, the storm was about 180 kilometers (110 miles) east of the town of Catarman, in Northern Samar province, with sustained winds of up to 85 kilometers (53 miles) per hour and was moving northwest.

Dozens of provinces and cities were under a storm warning, including the capital Manila. Fishing and cargo boats and inter-island ferries were unable to venture out to sea, stranding thousands of passengers, the coast guard said.

Some 5,000 people were protectively evacuated away from the path of the storm, which was not expected to become a typhoon as it moved closer to land, government forecasters and other officials said.

About 20 typhoons and storms hit the Philippine archipelago every year. It is located on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” a region along most of the Pacific Ocean rim where many volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occur, making the nation one of the most disaster-prone in the world. .

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