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Death toll of landslides climbs to 85

China Daily | Updated: 2019-01-03 10:24

Filipino villagers inspect a damaged road at a flooded community in the town of Bulan, Sorsogon province, Philippines, Dec 31 2018. [Photo/IC]

MANILA, The Philippines-The death toll from landslides and devastating floods in the central Philippines triggered by a tropical depression climbed to 85, officials said on Wednesday, as rescuers reached cutoff communities.

The country's national disaster agency said in its latest report that at least 20 people are still missing and the death is expected to rise.

The casualties, including young children, were mostly killed when their homes collapsed in landslides after days of heavy rain in several provinces in the central Philippines, said Ricardo Jalad, executive director of the national disaster agency.

"If we don't recover the missing or we recover them dead, that is 105 deaths, which we hope not," Jalad said.

He also said that it was basically because people, especially the local governments, neglected the dangers of the heavy rains.

"We've sent numerous advisories. If they followed it, conducted pre-emptive evacuation in these areas, the number (of fatalities) should have been lower," he said.

"But their pre-emptive evacuation is low … The people did not have a full understanding of the effects on the soil of extended rains," said Jalad.

"The advisory warned of heavy rains, flooding. It advised (the people) to be careful against flooding in low-lying areas and landslides in the mountainous areas. However, the evacuation protocol is the call of the local governments' chief executives. We only give them advisories about what will happen in their areas but it's their call to evacuate people," he added.

The tropical depression, which weakened into a low pressure system before leaving the Philippines on Sunday, brought heavy rain that triggered landslides and flooding in the Bicol and eastern Visayas regions.

Officials put three provinces under a "state of calamity" to give them access to emergency funds.

Bicol, with a population of 5.8 million, was the hardest hit, with 68 killed in intense rains and landslides. Damage to agriculture in Bicol, which produces rice and corn, was estimated at 342 million pesos ($6.5 million).

Rescuers, including the police and military, used heavy-lifting equipment to clear roads leading to landslide sites and entered flooded communities using rubber boats.

"The sun is already out, with occasional light rains. We hope floods will subside," Ronna Monzon, a member of the operations personnel at the disaster agency in Bicol, said.

About 20 tropical cyclones hit the Philippines every year, with destroyed crops and infrastructure taking a toll on human lives and weighing down one of the fastest growing economies in Asia.

The national disaster agency said more than 45,000 families or nearly 192,000 people from 457 areas in the Philippines were affected by the tropical depression that hit on Dec 29.

Reuters/Xinhua

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