31 killed as storm lashes southern Philippines

The state weather office in Manila said that the terrible flash floods were partly caused by tropical storm Nalgae, far to the northeast



Photo: AP
Photo: AP

By AFP

Published: Fri 28 Oct 2022, 8:11 AM

Last updated: Fri 28 Oct 2022, 12:11 PM

Landslides and flooding killed 31 people, as heavy rain from an approaching storm lashed the southern Philippines, a disaster official said on Friday.

Torrents of rainwater unleashed flash floods laden with uprooted trees, rocks and mud overnight in mainly rural communities around waterlogged Cotabato, a city of 300,000 people on Mindanao island.

The rapidly rising floodwaters caught residents by surprise, Naguib Sinarimbo, the spokesman and civil defence chief for the regional government, told AFP.

"The water started entering the houses before dawn," Sinarimbo said, confirming that the death toll in the storm-hit areas had risen to 31, from the earlier tally of 13.

Ten of the dead were from the town of Datu Blah Sinsuat on Mindanao island, he said.

Rescuers retrieved another three bodies in the neighbouring town of Datu Odin Sinsuat.

"The water started entering the houses before dawn. This is the first time it happened to us," Sinarimbo said.

Rescue teams in rubber boats had to pluck some residents from rooftops, Sinarimbo said.

"We're hoping the toll will end there," he said.

Provincial police posted on their official Facebook page photos of the shell of a house swept to the bank of a swollen river, a toppled steel fence flanked by debris, and a rock-strewn road.

Local filmmaker Remar Pablo told AFP he was shooting a beauty pageant in the town of Upi when the floodwaters suddenly came in after midnight and forced audience members to flee for safety.

A row of cars sat half-submerged on the street outside, his clips showed.

"We were stranded inside," said Pablo, who eventually waded into the water to get home.

In another photo, police rescuers are seen carrying a baby in a plastic wash tub as they waded through chest-deep floodwaters.

Floodwaters have since receded in several areas, but about 90 per cent of Cotabato City remained waterlogged, and there could be more flooding in a few hours from heavy rain upstream, Sinarimbo said.

"Our focus at this time is rescue as well as setting up community kitchens for the survivors," he said, although the exact number of people affected was not yet known.

The army deployed its trucks to collect stranded residents in Cotabato and eight nearby towns, provincial civil defence chief Nasrullah Imam said.

"It was a shock to see municipalities which had never flooded getting hit this time," Imam said, adding that some families were swept away when the waters hit their homes.

Heavy rain began late on Thursday in the impoverished region.

The state weather office in Manila said it was partly caused by tropical storm Nalgae, far to the northeast.

Nalgae was headed towards the northern Philippines, where the civil defence office said nearly 5,000 people were evacuated from flood- and landslide-prone areas ahead of an expected landfall on Saturday or Sunday.

The coast guard also suspended ferry services in much of the archipelago nation, where tens of thousands of people board boats each day.

An average of 20 typhoons and storms strike the Philippines each year, killing people and livestock and destroying farms, houses, roads and bridges, although the south is rarely hit.

Scientists have warned that storms are becoming more powerful as the world gets warmer because of climate change.

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