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Philippines storm: Rescuers race to find survivors after floods, landslides in country's south

Monday December 25, 2017 - 06:59 EDT
Residents walk in a village devastated by flash floods in Salvador, Lanao del Norte in southern Philippines, on December 24, 2017. -

Rescuers in the Philippines are searching for survivors of a devastating storm that triggered floods and landslides, killing at least 200 people, leaving scores missing and rendering tens of thousands of homeless.

More than 150 people are still unaccounted for after tropical storm Tembin hit late on Friday, leaving a path of destruction and strengthening into a typhoon before moving into the South China Sea.

, where rivers burst their banks and inundated towns, and entire villages were buried under landslides.

"It happened very fast, the flood waters quickly rose filling our house," said farmer Felipe Ybarsabal, 65, who had to run to higher ground with his family.

"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 metres under water in less than an hour."

Police and disaster officials said they expected the death toll 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.

Disaster officials said 159 people were listed as missing while about 70,000 had been forced from their homes.

Soldiers and police joined emergency workers and volunteers to search for survivors and victims, clear debris and restore power and communications.

The chairman of Philippines' Red Cross, Richard Gordon, said badly damaged infrastructure was adding to the difficulties of getting relief supplies to those affected.

"There's an inordinate amount of people who are missing," he said.

"Our people are there to look for people who have been lost, look for families who have lost and are still missing people, so we can provide them with social support, and try to find out whether their relatives who are missing are still alive."

UN offers help, Pope sends prayers

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.

The Philippines is battered by about 20 typhoons a year and warnings are routinely issued, but the level of damage on Mindanao came as a surprise.

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.

Misery in the largely Christian country was compounded by the .

The cause was not known but an investigation was being launched as authorities searched for the bodies of the victims.

President Rodrigo Duterte, and his daughter, Sara Duterte, who is Mayor of the city, visited the scene late on Saturday to meet anxious relatives of the missing and survivors.



© ABC 2017

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