At least 42 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 42 people, leaving 16 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 unusually heavy rains were brought on by Tropical Storm Nalgae, which was expected to hit the country’s eastern coast from the Pacific Ocean on Saturday, forecasters said.

Stormy weather prompted the coast guard to ban sea travel in dangerously rough seas as millions of Filipinos planned to travel for a long weekend to visit family graves and for family gatherings on All Saints’ Day. in the majority Roman Catholic nation.

“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, 27 died from drowning and mostly from landslides in Datu Odin Sinsuat village, 10 in Datu Blah Sinsuat village and another five in the town of Upi, all in Maguindanao.

Six people were missing in Datu Blah Sinsuat and another 10 in Upi, Sinarimbo said.

A rescue team reported that the bodies of at least 11 villagers were recovered from Kusiong, a tribal village at the foot of a mountain in Datu Odin Sinsuat, where floods and landslides also affected the community’s houses, Sinarimbo said.

“They were able to rescue some before, but now they are just trying to dig up bodies there,” he said, adding that it was unclear how many were missing from Kusiong due to confusion after the tragedy hit the community.

Army officials also reported at least 42 deaths from the storm in Maguindanao, saying in a statement that their forces were “continuing to rescue those caught in the flood in collaboration with local disaster teams” and transporting the displaced in army trucks to evacuation camps.

Unusually heavy rains flooded several towns in Maguindanao and outlying provinces in a mountainous region with marshy plains. 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.

Many of the flooded areas had not been flooded for years, including Cotabato city, where Sinarimbo said his home was flooded.

“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 city of Catarman in Northern Samar province with sustained winds of up to 85 kilometers (53 miles) per hour and was moving northwestward.

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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