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More than 200 killed in Philippines mudslides and floods as storm hits

December 28, 2017 ·  By Mattha Busby for www.theguardian.com

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Rescue operations under way on the island of Mindanao to find dozens of people reported missing after storm struck area

A tropical storm in the Philippines has triggered mudslides and floods killing more than 200 people with many others reported missing, police and disaster officials said on Saturday.

The casualties from storm Tembin, most of which occurred on Friday, were all on the main southern island of Mindanao.

A search and rescue operation is underway for more than 30 people swept away by flash floods in the fishing village of Anungan in the south-east of the island, where five bodies have already been recovered.

“The floodwaters from the mountain came down so fast and swept away people and houses,” said Bong Edding, mayor of Sibuco in Zamboanga del Norte province. “It’s really sad because Christmas is just a few days away, but these things happen beyond our control.”

Edding blamed years of logging in the mountains near Anungan for the tragedy, adding that he and other officials would move to halt the logging operations.

“We’re are still trying to confirm reports of a farming village buried by a mudslide,” said Ryan Cabus, an official in Tubod town.

He said power and communication lines to the area had been cut, complicating rescue efforts.

Tembin, known locally as Vinta, strengthened over the Sulu sea and picked up speed late on Saturday, packing maximum sustained winds of 65 miles (105 kph) and gusts of up to 90 mph (145 kph). It is forecast to move off toward the South China Sea on Sunday.

Emergency workers, soldiers, police and volunteers were being mobilised to search for survivors, clear debris, and restore power and communications.

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Local police said 135 people were dead and 72 were missing in the northern section of Mindanao, where floodwaters from a mountain had swept away several riverside houses and villagers. Another 47 were dead and 72 missing in the Zamboanga peninsula towns of Sibuco and Salug.

Three people were killed in Bukidnon province, while politicians in Lanao del Sur province said 18 people had drowned in floods there.

The Philippines is battered by about 20 typhoons every year, bringing death and destruction, usually to the poorest communities of the south-east Asian country.

A ferry sank off north-east Quezon province Thursday after being battered by fierce winds and waves, leaving at least five people dead. More than 250 passengers and crewmen were rescued.

Last week, 46 people were killed in the central Philippines when a typhoon hit. Last Christmas a powerful typhoon hit the densely populated area around Manila and in 2013 super typhoon Haiyan killed nearly 8,000 people and left 200,000 families homeless.

Elsewhere in the country at least 37 people, including call centre staff from an American firm, are believed to have perished in a fire that tore through a shopping mall in the southern city of Davao, local authorities said on Sunday.

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