Rescuers search for dozens missing after Philippine storm

Tens of thousands were driven from their homes by floods as Tropical Storm Kai-Tak pounded the eastern Philippines, cutting off power and triggering landslides. PHOTO: AFP

MANILA (AFP) - Rescuers used bulldozers to dig through mountains of mud in the eastern Philippines to search for over 30 people missing after a powerful storm triggered landslides on the weekend, the authorities said Monday (Dec 18).

Tropical Storm Kai Tak continued to drag its way westward across the archipelago nation Monday after leaving at least 28 dead over the weekend from drowning and landslides, the government monitoring agency said.

Most of the dead were in the island province of Biliran, which suffered the worst of the landslides, with many homes buried.

Rescuers searching for survivors on the island were not optimistic.

"There is an assumption that the missing are already dead," Mr Sofronio Dacillo, a provincial disaster risk reduction and management officer told AFP.

The largely agricultural island of Biliran, with a population of over 140,000, also suffered massive damage to its roads, bridges and power system, which was knocked out on the weekend.

Electricity supply is not expected to be restored until Wednesday, said Mr Dacillo.

"It was like two months of rain fell on one day in Biliran. And because of this, the soil really softened and that is also why so many bridges were destroyed," said President Rodrigo Duterte's spokesman Harry Roque.

Mr Duterte is due to visit Biliran later Monday to inspect the damage and rescue efforts, said Mr Roque.

Kai Tak's winds were not very powerful, but its slow movement across the central islands unleashed heavy rains over a long period, flooding large areas.

Many of the islands hit by Kai Tak also bore the brunt of Super Typhoon Haiyan in 2013, which left more than 7,350 people dead or missing.

In a video message posted on Facebook, the island province's governor Gerardo Espina said communities were running out of fuel and water as the storm had knocked out many vital bridges, preventing delivery of supplies.

"Of all the storms that passed Biliran... this is the one that we can call the worst," he said.

As of Monday, Kai Tak - packing gusts of 90kmh - had crossed the central Philippines and was over the western island of Palawan, heading west at 18kmh, the government weather station said.

The government expects the storm to move away from the Philippines on Tuesday.

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