Search and rescue efforts boosted during Philippines disaster

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — As search and rescue efforts increased with the arrival of equipment, the death toll rose to at least 56, with 28 others missing, after a summer tropical depression that triggered Days of driving rain has caused landslides and flooding in the central and southern Philippines, officials said Wednesday.

Nearly 200 villagers were injured, mostly in landslides in the hard-hit town of Baybay in the central province of Leyte over the weekend and early Monday, officials said. The army, police and other rescuers struggled through mud and loose piles of dirt and debris to find the missing villagers.

More rescuers and heavy equipment, including backhoes, have arrived in landslide-affected villages in Baybay. Its mayor, Jose Carlos Cari, said the weather cleared on Wednesday, allowing search and rescue work to continue at full speed.

“We are looking for so many more missing people,” Cari said and added authorities would do a recount to determine how many villagers were truly missing and believed to be buried in the landslides.

Forty-seven of the dead were recovered from landslides that hit six villages in Baybay, military and local officials said. Nine other people drowned elsewhere in floodwaters in four central and southern provinces, they said.

“We are saddened by this terrible incident which unfortunately caused loss of life and destruction of property,” said army brigade commander Colonel Noel Vestuir, who was helping oversee search and rescue operations. safety.

Coastguards, police and firefighters rescued villagers in flooded central communities on Monday, some of whom were trapped on their roofs. In downtown Cebu, schools and works were suspended on Monday and Mayor Michael Rama declared a state of calamity to allow emergency funds to be released quickly.

At least 20 storms and typhoons hit the Philippines every year, mostly during the rainy season which begins around June. Some storms have hit even during the scorching summer months in recent years.

The disaster-prone Southeast Asian nation also sits on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” where many volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occur.

Brandon D. James