ABUYOG: Landslides and flooding caused by Tropical Storm Megi have killed at least 148 people in the Philippines, according to the latest official reports released Thursday.
Dozens of people are still missing as the storm, the strongest to hit the archipelago this year, has forced tens of thousands of people to seek refuge in evacuation centers.
In central Leyte province, the worst-hit, devastating landslides have devastated farming and fishing communities, swept away homes and altered the landscape.
The disaster-prone region is regularly battered by storms – including Super Typhoon Haiyan, which hit it in 2013 – and scientists warn they will intensify as the planet heats up due to climate change.
Rescuers from Abuyog Municipality on Tuesday recovered dozens of bodies from a coastal village destroyed by a landslide.
At least 42 people were killed in landslides in three villages in the community, police said. Another person drowned.
Most of the deaths occurred in Pilar, and at least 28 bodies were transported to the community building by boats because the roads leading to the village were impassable.
Rescuers are also combing the coast, bodies were carried for miles by ocean currents.
“It won’t end anytime soon, it could take days,” Abuyog Mayor Lemuel Traya warned, noting that more than 100 people are still missing and there is little hope of finding them.
Most of the dead tried to reach the mountain to avoid flash floods, villagers told AFP.
“It sounded like a helicopter,” said Anacleta Canuto, 44, a Pilar city councilwoman, describing the noise made by the landslide.
Ms. Canuto, her husband, and their two children survived, but they lost at least nine loved ones.
Santiago Dahonog, a 38-year-old fisherman from Pilar, told how he fell into the sea with his two siblings and nephew as the landslide rushed towards them.
“We got out of the house, ran to the water and started swimming,” he told AFP. “I’m the only survivor”.
Last weekend, another 101 people were killed and dozens injured in vegetable, rice and coconut-growing villages around the city of Baybay, according to local authorities.
The hardest hit village is Kantagnos, where 42 people died and 93 are missing.
In the nearby village of Bunga, 17 people died when a mudslide rolled down a hill and engulfed the community. Only a few roofs are visible in the mud.
Three people have also drowned on the southern main island of Mindanao, the national disaster agency said in its latest update.
Megi struck at the start of Holy Week, one of the key holidays in the predominantly Catholic country, when thousands of people travel to visit loved ones.
The storm came four months after a super typhoon devastated entire areas of the country, killing more than 400 people and leaving hundreds of thousands homeless.
The Philippines – which is among the countries most affected by the effects of climate change – is hit by an average of 20 storms annually.
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