MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The death toll from landslides and floods that hit the central and southern Philippines after a summer tropical depression unleashed days of pounding rain has risen to at least 43, with 28 others missing, officials said Tuesday.
More than 100 villagers were injured in landslides in the hard-hit city of Baybay in central Leyte province over the weekend and early Monday, officials said. Army, police and other rescuers were struggling with mud and unstable heaps of earth and debris to find the missing villagers.
“We are saddened by this dreadful incident that caused an unfortunate loss of lives and destruction of properties,” said army brigade commander Col. Noel Vestuir, who was helping oversee the search and rescue.
Thirty-six of the dead were recovered from the landslides that hit six Baybay villages, military and local officials said. Seven other people drowned in floodwaters in the central provinces of Samar and Negros Oriental and southern Davao de Oro and Davao Oriental provinces.
More rescuers and heavy equipment, including backhoes, arrived in the landslide-hit villages in Baybay, but continuing rain and muddy ground have hampered the efforts. “The challenge is, it’s continuing to rain and we cannot immediately clear the landslide areas,” Vestuir said.
Coast guard, police and firefighters rescued some villagers Monday in flooded central communities, including some who were trapped on their roofs. In central Cebu city, schools and work were suspended Monday and Mayor Michael Rama declared a state of calamity to allow the rapid release of emergency funds.
At least 20 storms and typhoons batter the Philippines each year, mostly during the rainy season that begins around June. Some storms have hit even during the scorching summer months in recent years.
The disaster-prone Southeast Asian nation also lies on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” where many of the world’s volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occur.