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Dozens dead or missing after tropical storm hits the Philippines


The scene of a landslide that hit the village of Kantagnos, part of Baybay in Leyte Province, the Philippines, in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Megi.

By Jason Gutíerrez


Rescue workers battled intermittent heavy rain to reach many people still missing Wednesday, three days after Tropical Storm Megi pummeled the country, causing widespread landslides and flooding in the central Philippines.


Hardest hit was the city of Baybay in central Leyte province, where landslides buried a remote community and left 48 people dead as of Wednesday, according to police. Fifteen others were swept away by floods in five other central and southern provinces and are still missing, officials said.


In all, search and rescue teams were looking for nearly 30 people still unaccounted for, officials said.


Mark Timbal, a spokesman for the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, said local officials in Leyte had pre-emptively evacuated many residents in Baybay into areas that were safe — or so they thought.


“The landslide reached beyond the hazard-prone areas,” Timbal said in Manila. “Some of the residents had evacuated there and did not expect the landslide to reach that location.”


“We did not foresee the devastation brought about by this landslide,” he added.


While the storm has moved out of the Philippines, intermittent rains have continued, hampering search and rescue efforts.


Baybay’s mayor, Jose Carlos Cari, said he feared that the casualty figures could rise.


“We are still searching for many people missing,” he said. “Our responders are wading through mud.”


The nearby town of Abuyog was also hit by a landslide. Floodwaters had receded, but officials said nearly 80% of one village there had been wiped out.


“After the landslide, the remaining 20% of houses along the coast were swamped by a storm surge,” said Lemuel Gin Traya, Abuyog’s mayor. “It was one huge wave.”


All in all, about nine regions and an estimated 139,000 people in the Philippines’ eastern seaboard were affected, the disaster relief agency in Manila said.


The Philippines sits on the so-called typhoon belt and endures an estimated 20 storms a year, some devastating.


In December, about 400 people were killed when Typhoon Rai pummeled the central region. And in November 2013, Typhoon Haiyan slammed the central Philippines, killing thousands.

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