More than 89K flee slow-moving Kai-Tak
MANILA, Philippines, Dec 17, (Agencies): A slow-moving storm has left more than 30 people dead and several others missing mostly due to landslides and floods and stranded thousands of holiday travelers in the central Philippines, officials said Sunday.
Sofronio Dacillo Jr, a disaster- response officer, said 26 villagers died and 23 others were missing mostly due to landslides in different areas in the island province of Biliran, where the weather has improved after Tropical Storm Kai-Tak blew over Saturday. At least seven other people were killed in landslides and floods in four central areas due to Kai-tak, which weakened into a tropical depression but moved southwestward and picked up speed Sunday with sustained winds of 55 kms (34 miles) per hour, according to officials and police.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said it was trying to confirm the reported deaths caused by the storm, which forced more than 89,000 people to fl ee to emergency shelters.
Thousands of Christmas holiday travelers were stranded due to canceled inter-island ferries and flights. Kai-tak, known locally as Urduja, has remained almost stationary over the eastern section of the central Philippines in recent days, drenching island provinces, setting off landslides and floods and knocking out power in some areas.
President Rodrigo Duterte said he would visit the storm-hit region. About 20 typhoons and storms, mostly from the Pacific, lash the Philippines each year, making the poor country of more than 100 million people one of the most disaster- prone in the world. The deaths were reported in the small island province of Biliran, a day after the storm pounded the east of the archipelago nation.
Kai-Tak tore across the major islands of Samar and Leyte on Saturday, toppling power lines in 39 towns or cities and damaging roads and bridges, the national disaster agency said. Sofronio Dacillo, provincial disaster risk reduction and management officer, told AFP the deaths occurred in four towns in Biliran at the weekend. “Rocks as big as cars fell on concrete houses after three days of continuous, heavy rain,” chief inspector Lilibeth Morillo, Biliran police information officer, told AFP as she described a landslide in the mountainous district of Lucsoon.
“There were six families living there but they did not evacuate,” she said, adding seven bodies were recovered in the area. Gerardo Espina, governor of the island province just east of Leyte, gave the same overall death toll of 26 in an interview on ABS-CBN television.
He said 23 people were missing. The national disaster risk reduction agency could not immediately confirm if the 26 deaths included the initial three fatalities it announced on Saturday. Kai-Tak weakened on Sunday afternoon, with gusts of up to 80 kms (50 miles) an hour, and was downgraded to a tropical depression, state weather forecasters said.
“There is so much destruction there. There are places where the bridge was destroyed and I would like to see for myself what government can do better,” Duterte said in a speech. Disaster officials warned that more fl oods and landslides were possible and said 15,500 passengers were stranded because ferry services remained suspended in parts of the region.
“I’ve been stranded for three days, sleeping in the bus, and I just want to get home to my family for Christmas,” Eliaquin Pilapil, a 55-year-old farmer, told AFP from a port in the town of Matnog in the eastern province of Sorsogon. The Christmas holidays are a busy travel season in the mainly Catholic Philippines, with people heading home to the provinces. The nation is battered by about 20 major storms each year. Samar and Leyte bore the brunt in 2013 of Super Typhoon Haiyan which left more than 7,350 people dead or missing.
In the Leyte city of Tacloban, Saturday’s storm brought flash floods of up to 1.5 metres (five feet) and strong winds that left the city without power and water, according to its disaster office chief. “The storm moved so slowly that it brought so much rain to our city.
The floods resulted from four days of rain,” Ildebrando Bernadas, head of Tacloban’s disaster risk reduction office, told AFP. Bernadas said 82 percent of Tacloban’s districts were fl ooded. The storm also damaged farms and crops, bringing more misery to people who had been recovering from Haiyan’s destruction. “We had a phobia from (Haiyan) which destroyed our coconut trees. We planted lettuce and eggplant but the new storm took them away too. It’s devastating,” Remedios Serato, a 78-year-old farmer in Leyte, told AFP.