MANILA – Rescuers in the Philippines searched on Sunday for survivors of tropical storm Vinta (international name Tembin) that triggered floods and landslides and killed about 200 people, left scores missing and thousands homeless, most of whom apparently ignored warnings to move to safety.
Disaster officials said at a briefing, however, that casualties caused by “Vinta” are still undergoing verification and validation by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).
According to National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC) spokesperson Mina Marasigan, an initial 123 persons were killed, 160 missing and 14 injured, as reported by NDRRMC field offices. About 70,000 had been forced from their homes.
Majority of the deaths, which are still being verified by the DILG, is attributable to landslides and flooding spawned by “Vinta”.
Casualties are high in Lanao Del Norte, Lanao Del Sur and Zamboanga Del Norte.
Aid and other necessities are now being prepared by the government, Marasigan added.
As of this time, 13,491 families were evacuated in Regions 4-B, 7, 9, 10, II, ARMM and the CARAGA, per government data.
‘IT HAPPENED SO FAST’
“It happened very fast, the flood waters quickly rose filling our house,” farmer Felipe Ybarsabal, 65, told Reuters by telephone, saying he and his family had to run to higher ground.
“We weren’t able to save anything from the house. There was no help from anyone because it was so fast. Everything was two to three meters under water in less than an hour.”
Police and disaster officials said they expected the toll of about 200 dead to rise with more fatalities likely to be discovered in remote farm communities and coastal areas, as rescuers reached them and restored communication and power links.
Soldiers and police joined emergency workers and volunteers to search for survivors and victims, clear debris and restore power and communications.
Disaster officials said many villagers had ignored warnings to leave coastal areas and move away from riverbanks, and got swept away when flash floods and landslides struck.
The storm was moving west on Sunday, over some outlying Philippine islands and the South China Sea toward southern Vietnam, at a speed of about 20 kph (12 mph).
It intensified into a typhoon with winds of 120 kph (75 mph) as it moved out of the Philippine area of responsibility, the national meteorological agency said.
UN OFFERS AID, POPE PRAYS FOR PH
The United Nations was ready to help the Philippines, a spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement.
Pope Francis offered his prayers for the people of Mindanao while delivering his weekly blessing to a crowd on St Peter’s Square at the Vatican.
“Merciful Lord, take in the souls of the dead and comfort those who are suffering as a result of this calamity,” he said.
Last week, 46 people were killed in the central Philippines when typhoon Urduja hit. In 2013, super typhoon Haiyan killed nearly 8,000 people and left 200,000 families homeless.
The south of the Philippines has been plagued by insurgencies by communist rebels and Muslim separatists for years, as well as often bearing the brunt of tropical storms roaring in from the Pacific.
The region was hit by another disaster on the weekend when fire swept through a shopping mall in the city of Davao, killing at least 37 people, most of them workers at a call center, city government officials said.
The vice mayor of the southern city of Davao, Paolo Duterte, said the chance of survival for any of the 37 people missing at the NCC Mall was “zero”.
The fire broke out on Saturday at a furniture shop on the mall’s third level and quickly engulfed an outsourcing business on the top floor, said a spokeswoman for the city government, Ma. Teresita Gaspan.