Rain hampers rescue efforts after Philippines’ first tropical storm this year

Jeoffrey Maitem and Jojo Riñoza
2022.04.12
Manila
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Rain hampers rescue efforts after Philippines’ first tropical storm this year An aerial view shows damage from a landslide caused by Tropical Storm Megi in Baybay City, Leyte province, Philippines, April 11, 2022.
As You Wish Photography via Reuters

Heavy rain in a Leyte province city hardest hit by Tropical Storm Megi caused delays in rescue efforts on Tuesday as the national death toll climbed to more than three dozen, the local disaster chief and other Philippine officials said.

Megi (known locally as Agaton), the first storm of the season in the Philippines, dumped heavy rains that unleashed landslides in the central region. As of Tuesday evening, at least 25 people had died in and around Leyte’s Baybay City and 19 others had died elsewhere, police, army and National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council officials reported.

Rescuers suspended their operation because of the rain, said Rhyse Austero, the disaster response chief for Baybay City.

“We need augmentation of personnel and equipment,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the commander of the 802nd Infantry Brigade spearheading the rescue operations, said the ongoing rain could cause more landslides.

“We are saddened by this dreadful incident that caused unfortunate loss of lives and destruction of properties,” said Col. Noel A. Vestuir.

“We are closely monitoring the situation and supervising the search, rescue and retrieval as well as the humanitarian assistance and disaster response as we race against time to rescue those who are hit by the landslides.”

Those operations, he said, were focused on mountain communities in Baybay City. Pictures provided by the Philippine Coast Guard showed rescuers battling sludge and rain as they retrieved bodies.

“There were landslides in communities and then some of the victims were swept by floods,” Baybay police chief Lt. Col. Joemen Collado told reporters.

On Tuesday, the storm was over the Philippines and moving in a westerly direction. The state weather bureau said while it was moving out, another disturbance has entered the country’s extreme eastern area.

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Heavy rain caused landslides near Baybay City, Leyte province, central Philippines, April 11, 2022. [Philippine Coast Guard via AP]

Lord Byron Torrecarion, regional director of the Office of Civil Defense, said Agaton dumped heavy rains on Sunday in the village of Can-ipa in Baybay City, causing landslides and forcing the evacuation of thousands of people from their homes.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council reported that more than 86,500 families in eight regions were affected by the storm.

In Manila, Richard Gordon, a senator who serves as the Philippine Red Cross chairman, said teams were on standby and ready to be dispatched if needed by local officials.

“We are currently sending immediate help in areas affected by the storm,” Gordon said.

Vigilance

Meanwhile, presidential spokesman Martin Andanar called on the public to remain vigilant and take preventive measures as the storm moved slowly across the region.

“The Office of the President is closely monitoring the track of Tropical Storm Agaton as the government’s hands are on deck to assist affected residents,” Andanar said, adding that the national disaster council was coordinating with local chapters in the affected areas “to support relief activities.”

“We renew our appeal to the public, especially those in areas affected by the typhoon, to conduct the necessary precautionary measures. Stay up-to-date on the latest weather advisories and bulletins,” Andanar said.

The Philippines endures about 20 tropical storms and typhoons annually, some which are devastating. In November 2013, more than 6,500 people died or were missing after Super Typhoon Haiyan battered the central Philippines, causing massive storm surges that inundated coastal communities.

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