Philippines hunts for dozens missing after its deadliest typhoon this year

November 13, 2020 - 4:32 PM
A man reacts as he takes a break from cleaning mud outside his house, which was submerged due to floods caused by Typhoon Vamco, in Marikina, Metro Manila, Philippines, November 13, 2020. (Reuters/Eloisa Lopez)

MANILA — Police and soldiers in the Philippines searched for dozens of people still missing on Friday after Typhoon Ulysses (International name: Vamco) killed at least 39 people and caused some of the worst flooding in years in the capital Manila and nearby provinces.

“Ulysses”, the 21st and most deadly cyclone to hit the country this year, tore through the main island of Luzon late on Wednesday and early Thursday, just as the country was reeling from “Rolly” (International name: Goni), the world’s strongest typhoon of 2020, which killed 25 people and flattened thousands of homes.

Retrieval operations found 39 bodies while the search continues for 22 missing people, army chief Gilbert Gapay told a news conference.

Successive typhoons – eight in the past two months – add to the challenges on a government battling community coronavirus infections and an economic recession.

Among the casualties, two men drowned and a child was killed in a landslide in Camarines province. Three people died when a warehouse collapsed in Cavite province.

The casualty count is subject to validation by local officials and the disaster agency, which has so far recorded 14 deaths and three missing.

Tens of thousands of homes were submerged, although water levels started to recede in parts of the badly hit Marikina suburb, allowing residents to start cleanups after returning to homes covered in debris and caked in mud.

“We don’t know how to start cleaning. Mud is so thick up to the second floor,” Gilbert Gaston, a Marikina resident, told DZMM radio.

Many residents took refuge on rooftops and were among some 6,000 people rescued across Manila’s suburbs. Government agencies were clearing landslides and debris elsewhere, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said.

About 500,000 households in and around the capital were without power and virtual classes and government work was suspended in Luzon, home to half of the Philippines‘ 108 million population.

Ulysses was approaching central Vietnam, where devastating floods and mudslides since early October have killed at least 160 people. It is expected to make landfall on Saturday. —Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Additional Reporting by Enrico dela Cruz; Editing by Ed Davies and Martin Petty