Death toll from Philippines landslides, floods rises to 67

Philippines landslides

The death toll from landslides and floods in the Philippines has risen to 67 with scores missing and feared dead, officials said, as rescuers dug up more bodies with bare hands and backhoes in crushed villages.

Most of the deaths from tropical storm Megi – the strongest to hit the Southeast Asian archipelago this year – were in the central province of Leyte.

Thirteen people died and around 150 were missing in the coastal village of Pilar, which is part of Abuyog municipality, after a torrent of mud and earth pushed houses into the sea and buried most of the settlement, Abuyog Mayor Lemuel Traya said.

“I have to be honest, we are no longer expecting survivors,” Traya told AFP, adding that emergency personnel were now focused on the difficult task of retrieving bodies.

About 250 people were in evacuation centres after being rescued by boat after roads were cut by landslides, he said.

A number of villagers were also in hospital.

A rumbling sound like “a helicopter” alerted Ara Mae Canuto, 22, to the landslide hurtling towards her family’s home in Pilar.

She said she tried to outrun it, but was swept into the water and nearly drowned.

“I swallowed dirt, and my ears and nose are full of mud,” Canuto told AFP by telephone from her hospital bed. Her father died and her mother has not been found.

Disaster-prone Philippines is regularly ravaged by storms – including a direct hit from Super Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 – with scientists warning they are becoming more powerful as the world gets warmer because of human-driven climate change.

Baybay City is also reeling after waves of sodden soil smashed into farming settlements over the weekend, killing at least 48 people and injuring over 100, local authorities said. Twenty-seven are still missing, they added.

Aerial photos showed a wide stretch of mud that had swept down a hill of coconut trees and engulfed Bunga village, where only a few rooftops poked through the now-transformed landscape.

“We were told to be on alert because a storm was coming, but they did not directly tell us we needed to evacuate,” said Bunga farmworker Loderica Portarcos, 47, who lost 17 relatives and a friend in the landslide.

Portarcos braved heat and humidity as she advised a backhoe operator where to dig for three bodies still embedded in the soft soil which had started to smell of rotting flesh.

“Our dead relatives are all in the morgue, but there will be no time for a wake to mourn them because the mayor told us they smell bad,” she said.

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