Bunga, Philippines – The death toll from the strongest storm to hit the Philippines this year rose to 42 on Tuesday as rescuers recovered more bodies from villages devastated by rain-triggered landslides. Emergency personnel suspended the search for survivors around Baybay City in the central province of Leyte in the late afternoon because it was “too dangerous” to continue in the dark, Marissa Miguel said Cano, public information officer for the city government.
Elsewhere, rescuers hampered by mud and rain continued to use their bare hands and shovels to search for survivors of landslides that slammed into villages when Tropical Storm Megi hit the country.
More than 17,000 people fled their homes as the storm battered the disaster-prone region in recent days, flooding homes, cutting off roads and knocking out electricity.
Leyte was the hardest hit and most of the deaths occurred in the mountainous village of Mailhi where at least 14 bodies were found, army captain Kaharudin Cadil told AFP.
“It was a mudslide that buried houses. We recovered most of the bodies embedded in the mud,” said Cadil, a spokesman for the 802nd Infantry Brigade.
Drone footage shared on Facebook and verified by AFP showed a large expanse of mud that had tumbled down a hillside of coconut trees and engulfed Bunga, another community devastated by the storm, reduced to a few roofs piercing through the mud.
“It’s supposed to be the dry season, but maybe climate change has upset that,” said Marissa Miguel Cano, public information manager for Baybay City, where a total of 10 villages have been hit by storms. landslides.
Cano said the hilly area of corn, rice and coconut farms was prone to landslides, but they were generally small and not fatal.
Apple Sheena Bayno was forced to flee after her home in Baybay City was flooded. She said her family was still recovering from a super typhoon in December.
“We are still fixing our house and yet it is being hit again, so I was getting anxious,” she told AFP.
The military joined coast guard, police and fire protection personnel in search and rescue efforts.
National disaster agency spokesman Mark Timbal said landslides around Baybay City had reached settlements “outside the danger zone”, catching many residents by surprise. “There were people in their homes who were directly affected by the landslide.”
Tropical Storm Megi – known in the Philippines by its local name Agaton – was the first major storm to hit the country this year. Rising seas forced dozens of ports to suspend operations and stranded more than 9,000 people at the start of Holy Week, one of the busiest travel times of the year in the predominantly Catholic country.
The storm comes four months after Super Typhoon Rai devastated swaths of the archipelago nation, killing more than 400 people and leaving hundreds of thousands homeless.
Scientists have long warned that typhoons are getting stronger faster as the world warms due to climate change. The Philippines – ranked among the countries most vulnerable to its impacts – is hit by an average of 20 storms each year.