Widespread flooding from tropical storm drowns dozens in southern Philippines

Mark Navales and Jeoffrey Maitem
2022.10.28
Cotabato, Philippines
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Widespread flooding from tropical storm drowns dozens in southern Philippines Rescuers use a rope line to help people escape from floodwaters in Kalamansig, Sultan Kudarat province, Philippines, Oct. 28, 2022.
Handout/Regional Maritime Unit 12 – Sultan Kudarat Maritime Police handout/AFP

Dozens of people died after torrential rains from a storm brought flash floods and landslides to the southern Philippines on Friday, officials said, just days after an earthquake rocked the nation’s northern region.

Late Friday, authorities said the total death toll from Tropical Storm Nalgae (Philippine name Paeng) was at least 42. Many of the victims drowned.

Residents in Cotabato city and surrounding areas were caught unprepared for the disaster, which began with non-stop rains Thursday night. The storm cut power supplies, damaged houses and shanties and caused water to quickly rise in low lying areas in Maguindanao and North Cotabato provinces, officials said. 

“Prayers for the safety of everyone and especially our rescue teams,” Naguib Sinarimbo, interior minister of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), said in a broadcast carried on DXMS radio in Cotabato city. 

“Some have already returned successfully only to be redeployed in some other areas. Others are still in their mission areas,” Sinarimbo said Friday morning.

Nalgae, the 16th storm this year, whipped sustained winds of 85 kph (53 mph) near the center and gusts up to 105 kph (65 mph) before heading toward the northern Philippines Friday afternoon, according to the state meteorological agency.

As of noon, the tropical storm had struck 10 towns and a city in the BARMM, Sinarimbo said, warning there could be many more casualties because a landslide buried a community in Kusiong village. 

“A relative of one of the residents there told us that the entire community was washed out due to a combination of flooding and a landslide from the mountain. But there were people who reportedly died and there are also people trapped there that we need to rescue,” Sinarimbo said. 

Cotabato city Mayor Bruce Matabalao said more than 67,000 households or about 330,000 people in the city’s 37 villages were affected by the tropical storm. 

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Philippine Air Force members help a woman and her child find safety from flooding in the town of Datu Odin Sinsuat, in Maguindanao province, Oct. 28, 2022. [Mark Navales/BenarNews]
“We will declare the whole city under a state of calamity,” Matabalao said. “Our priority is the rescue mission like those in extreme emergency.”

Nasrullah Imam, chief of Maguindanao provincial disaster risk reduction and management office, said the upland town of Nuro Upi was submerged, adding military and emergency service crews had been working there since early Friday.  

“The military has assisted us in evacuating the place since 1 a.m. today,” Imam said. 

Meanwhile, Datu Blah T. Sinsuat Mayor Marshall Sinsuat said 10 people from his town were confirmed dead, mostly washed away by rampaging waters and landslides in the villages of Pura, Nalkan and Tubuan. 

“At least five others are still missing,” Sinsuat said. 

“Please send rubber boats … one so we can rescue trapped villagers,” Mayor Juanito Agustin of Pigcawayan said. 

“Even the national highway was flooded,” Agustin said, noting the floodwaters in his 10 low-lying villages were as high as man’s chest. 

In North Cotabato province, major roads leading to Davao City, the hometown of former President Rodrigo Duterte, were closed as floodwaters topped a bridge.

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Rescue workers assist people evacuating from a flooded area in Parang, Maguindanao province, Philippines, Oct. 28, 2022. [Handout/ Philippine Coast Guard/Police Regional Office Bangsamoro Autonomous Region/AFP]

Quake

Earlier this week, a 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck the northern Philippines late Tuesday, followed by hundreds of aftershocks on Wednesday. The quake injured nearly four dozen people, damaged more than 2,000 houses and 125 buildings, including historic churches and schools, according to government officials.

The Philippines endures about 20 tropical storms and typhoons annually, some of which are devastating. 

Just last month, Super Typhoon Noru, the most powerful storm to strike the Philippines this year, left at least five people dead – all rescuers – caused massive flooding and forced the evacuation of thousands after it made landfall over Quezon province. 

In November 2013, more than 6,500 people died or went missing after Super Typhoon Haiyan battered the central Philippines, causing massive storm surges that inundated coastal communities.

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