Search on for dozens missing in Philippines after storm

A bridge in the town of Naval damaged after Tropical Storm Kai-Tak pounded the island province of Biliran in the Philippines as it made its way across the archipelagic nation over the weekend. The heavy rain caused landslides that buried many homes a
A bridge in the town of Naval damaged after Tropical Storm Kai-Tak pounded the island province of Biliran in the Philippines as it made its way across the archipelagic nation over the weekend. The heavy rain caused landslides that buried many homes and roads. At least 31 people have died, and 49 are still missing.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

MANILA • Rescuers used bulldozers to dig through mountains of mud in the search for more than 40 people missing in the eastern Philippines after landslides triggered by a powerful storm, which killed at least 31 at the weekend, the authorities said yesterday.

Tropical Storm Kai-Tak was heading out to the South China Sea yesterday afternoon after dragging its way across the archipelagic nation over the weekend, leaving at least 31 people dead, most of them from drowning and landslides, government officials said.

President Rodrigo Duterte's spokesman Harry Roque said 49 people are still missing.

The island province of Biliran suffered the brunt of the storm as the heavy rain caused landslides that buried many homes and destroyed roads and bridges.

Rescuers searching for survivors on the island were not optimistic. "There is an assumption that the missing are already dead," said Mr Sofronio Dacillo, a provincial disaster risk-reduction and management officer.

The largely agricultural island of Biliran, with a population of more than 140,000 also had its power system knocked out, and its electricity supply was not expected to be restored until tomorrow, said Mr Dacillo.

Mr Roque said: "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."

Officials also said more than 270,000 people were affected by the storm, with 191,000 in evacuation centres.

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.

Meanwhile, in Indonesia, a landslide on the slopes of Mount Merapi volcano on Java island yesterday killed at least eight people who were mining sand and stones.

Eight others were injured.

It was not raining when the incident occurred, but the almost vertical incline of the slope made it slip-prone, National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said.

Heavy equipment had been brought in to help search for victims at the site, about 50km north of the city of Yogyakarta.

Dr Sutopo said mining had persisted in the area even though landslides had occurred there before.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 19, 2017, with the headline 'Search on for dozens missing in Philippines after storm'. Print Edition | Subscribe