MANILA— Rescue teams in the Philippines faced a race against time on Tuesday in the search for 28 people missing and feared dead, after Tropical Depression “Agaton” (International name: Megi) unleashed heavy rains and deadly landslides in southern and eastern areas of the country.
National and local disaster agencies reported five more deaths in central and southern Philippines on Tuesday, taking the toll to 30 since the storm struck at the weekend.
Agaton, the first tropical cyclone to hit the typhoon-prone archipelago this year, made landfall on Sunday with sustained winds of up to 65 kilometers (40 miles) per hour and gusts of up to 80 kph (49 mph).
Police, coast guard, and army personnel had by Tuesday retrieved 25 bodies after landslides in mountainous areas in Baybay city in Leyte province, according to the military, with 105 injuries reported.
The storm has since weakened and was as headed for the Pacific Ocean on Tuesday afternoon.
“We are saddened of this dreadful incident that caused unfortunate loss of lives and destruction of properties,” said Colonel Noel Vestuir, an infantry brigade commander, during an area survey.
“We race against time to rescue those who are hit by landslide and save lives,” Vestuir said.
Continuous rains are hampering search and rescue operations, Baybay city information officer Marissa Cano told DZBB radio.
“Rescuers did not advance because the ground is still moving, it is dangerous,” Cano said.
More than 100 communities, especially those near rivers and beaches, were submerged in floods from moderate but continuous rains over the weekend.
Images shared by the coast guard showed rescuers wading through forests and chest deep waters, carrying mud-covered survivors on stretchers.
“We are asking for help. We left our home last night because the floodwater kept rising,” Mary Catherine Relos, a 29-year-old resident of Capiz province, told Reuters.
—Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Martin Petty