Storm lashes Philippines, killing 26 in landslides and stranding thousands

Villagers wade through a flooded street in Brgy Calingatngan, Borongan, on Dec 16, 2017, after Tropical Storm Kai-Tak pounded the eastern Philippines, cutting off power and triggering landslides. PHOTO: AFP

MANILA (AFP) - Landslides triggered by Tropical Storm Kai-Tak have killed 26 people in the central Philippine island of Biliran, authorities said Sunday (Dec 17), 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," Sofronio Dacillo, Biliran provincial disaster risk reduction and management officer, told Agence France-Presse.

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 as left thousands of people heading home for Christmas in the Philippines stranded on Sunday/

The storm has weakened, with gusts of up to 90 kph. It toppled power lines in 39 towns or cities and damaged roads and bridges, the national disaster agency said.

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," Eliaquin Pilapil, a 55-year-old farmer, told 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, it 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," Ildebrando Bernadas, head of Tacloban's disaster risk reduction office, told AFP.

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

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