MANILA (AFP) - The death toll from flooding and landslides in the Philippines wrought by tropical storm Jangmi rose to 53 Wednesday, officials said, with some regions saying they were caught off guard by the deluge.
In Catbalogan town in Samar province 19 people died in a landslide that left homes and vehicles buried under rocks and mud, local Mayor Stephany Uy-Tan said, adding that the town had been surprised by the landslide.
"We did not expect a deluge. We thought the hill where the landslide hit was tough as rocks," she told AFP.
"There was no evacuation, people were just advised to prepare for possible landslides," she said. "We need to check communication systems to find out what went wrong."
Jangmi affected 121,737 people, of which 80,186 are in evacuation centres, according to the national disaster monitoring agency, which said that 53 people were killed overall.
The storm's death toll was nearly triple that of the last major storm to hit the country, Super Typhoon Hagupit, earlier this month.
Hagupit, with winds of 210 kilometres per hour, sparked a massive evacuation effort as it brought back memories of the strongest storm ever to hit the country, Super Typhoon Haiyan, whose 230-kilometre per hour winds left 7,350 dead or missing in 2013.
In Misamis Oriental province, floods flattened rice and corn fields resulting in an estimated 400 million pesos (S$11.8 million) in damages, Governor Yevgeny Emano told DZMM radio.
"We were caught by surprise, we didn't expect that we would be hit by the eye of the storm," Emano said, although he noted he had received some warnings.
In Leyte - the province worst-hit by Haiyan - the rains brought landslides and floods that closed off major roads, Governor Leopoldo Domenico Petilla said on DZMM.
Mina Marasigan, the national disaster monitoring agency's spokeswoman, defended the government's handling of the storm saying weather warnings were sent out even as Jangmi was still forming over the Pacific Ocean.
"Maybe people underestimated the situation because it's a tropical depression, not a super typhoon. They dismissed it as weak," she said.
"We need to study what happened in this storm closely and find ways for the public to better understand storm warnings," Marasigan added.