0531 GMT December 01, 2022
Most of the deaths from tropical storm Megi — the strongest to hit the archipelago this year — were in the central province of Leyte, where a series of landslides devastated communities, AFP reported.
Twenty-six 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 on Tuesday pushed houses into the sea and buried most of the settlement, authorities said.
“I have to be honest, we are no longer expecting survivors,” Abuyog Mayor Lemuel 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.
The disaster-prone region 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.
Three people were also killed in the central province of Negros Oriental and three on the main southern island of Mindanao, according to the national disaster agency.
The death toll from Megi is expected to rise as rescue operations switch to recovering bodies.
Black body bags containing 26 victims from Pilar were laid out on sand in Abuyog for relatives to identify on Wednesday.
Abuyog police chief Captain James Mark Ruiz said more boats were needed. But getting access to the shore was difficult.
Whipping up seas, Megi forced dozens of ports to temporarily suspend operations, stranding thousands of people at the start of Holy Week, one of the busiest travel periods of the year in the Philippines.
It came four months after super typhoon Rai devastated swathes of the country, killing more than 400 and leaving hundreds of thousands homeless.
The Philippines — ranked among the most vulnerable nations to the impacts of climate change — is hit by an average of 20 storms every year.