Storm kills 26 in Philippines, thousands stranded

A long line of vehicles on a highway heading to the port in Matnog, Sorsogon, yesterday. Ferry services remained suspended, stranding thousands of people heading home for Christmas. A resident stands amid the damage after Tropical Storm Kai-Tak yeste
A resident stands amid the damage after Tropical Storm Kai-Tak yesterday blew through San Mateo in Borongan in eastern Samar, in the Philippines, wrecking houses and toppling trees.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
A long line of vehicles on a highway heading to the port in Matnog, Sorsogon, yesterday. Ferry services remained suspended, stranding thousands of people heading home for Christmas. A resident stands amid the damage after Tropical Storm Kai-Tak yeste
A long line of vehicles on a highway heading to the port in Matnog, Sorsogon, yesterday. Ferry services remained suspended, stranding thousands of people heading home for Christmas. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

MANILA • Landslides triggered by Tropical Storm Kai-Tak have killed 26 people on the central Philippine island of Biliran, the authorities said yesterday, a day after the storm pounded the east of the archipelagic nation.

"There is a total of 26 people dead from landslides in four towns of Biliran. We have recovered the bodies," Biliran provincial disaster risk reduction and management officer Sofronio Dacillo told Agence France-Presse.

Mr Gerardo Espina, governor of the island province east of the much larger island of Leyte, gave the same figure for deaths in an interview on ABS-CBN television.

The storm has since weakened, with gusts of up to 90kmh as it moves slowly through the centre of the country towards the South China Sea. It toppled power lines in 39 towns or cities and damaged roads and bridges, the national disaster agency said.

Kai-Tak left thousands of people heading home for Christmas in the Philippines stranded yesterday.

Disaster officials said 15,500 passengers were stranded because ferry services remained suspended in parts of the central Philippines.

"I've been stranded for three days, sleeping in the bus, and I just want to get home to my family for Christmas," farmer Eliaquin Pilapil, 55, told Agence France-Presse (AFP) from a port in the town of Matnog in the eastern province of Sorsogon. "We're given food once or twice a day and some of the passengers here are running out of money."

The Christmas holidays are a busy travel season in the mainly Catholic Philippines, with people heading home to the provinces. The country is battered by about 20 major storms each year.

Kai-Tak, initially classified as a tropical storm, forced 87,700 people from their homes when it tore across the eastern islands of Samar and Leyte on Saturday. The two islands bore the brunt in 2013 of Super Typhoon Haiyan, which left more than 7,350 people dead or missing.

In the Leyte city of Tacloban, Kai-Tak brought flash floods of up to 1.5m and strong winds that left the city without power and water, according to its disaster office chief.

"The storm moved so slowly that it brought so much rain to our city. The floods resulted from four days of rain," Mr Ildebrando Bernadas, head of Tacloban's disaster risk reduction office, told AFP. He said 82 per cent of Tacloban's districts were flooded.

The storm also damaged farms and crops, bringing more misery to people who had been recovering from Haiyan's destruction.

"We had a phobia after (Haiyan) destroyed our coconut trees. We planted lettuce and eggplant but the new storm took them away too. It's devastating," 78-year-old farmer Remedios Serato, in Leyte, told AFP.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 18, 2017, with the headline 'Storm kills 26 in Philippines, thousands stranded'. Print Edition | Subscribe