Landslides and flooding have killed at least 31 people in the southern Philippines after torrential rains from the approaching Tropical Storm Nalgae lashed the region, according to senior government officials.
The rainstorms triggered flash flooding overnight, carrying with them uprooted trees, rocks, and mud into rural communities around Cotabato, a city of 300,000 people on Mindanao island, reports said on Friday.
Residents were taken by surprise by the rising floodwaters, Naguib Sinarimbo, civil defense chief for the regional government, said.
“The amount of rainwater that came down overnight was unusually (heavy) and flowed down mountainsides and swelled rivers,” he said, adding that most of the victims were swept away by floodwaters and drowned, or were hit by debris-laden mudslides.
Sinarimbo said the water started entering houses before dawn, confirming that the death toll in the storm-hit areas had jumped to 31 from the earlier tally of 13.
He further informed that rescue operations for the missing people were underway, without specifying how many people were missing.
The official said the rescue teams had retrieved 16 bodies from the flood-hit town of Datu Odin Sinsuat, 10 from Datu Blah Sinsuat, and five from Upi town.
“Our focus at this time is rescue as well as setting up community kitchens for the survivors,” Sinarimbo noted.
Nasrullah Imam, provincial civil defense chief, said the army had deployed trucks to collect stranded residents in Cotabato and eight nearby towns, which remained almost entirely waterlogged on Friday.
“It was a shock to see municipalities which had never flooded getting hit this time,” he said, adding that some families were swept away by the water.
The state weather office in Manila said the rain storms were related to Tropical Storm Nalgae, which is approaching the northern Philippines.
The civil defense office said nearly 5,000 people have been evacuated from flood and landslide-prone areas ahead of the storm on Saturday or Sunday.
The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration said that Nalgae is likely to cause flooding and landslides.
The storm “is forecast to further intensify while moving over the warm waters of the Philippine Sea and may reach severe tropical storm category within 24 hours … it is less likely to reach typhoon category”, the agency said in a statement.
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