DATU ODIN SINSUAT, PHILIPPINES: Severe tropical storm Nalge hit the Philippines on Saturday, causing flash floods and landslides that have killed at least 45 people, officials said. Nalge made landfall on the sparsely populated eastern island of Catanduanes before dawn before crossing the main island of the archipelago-state of Luzon in winds of up to 95 km/h.

Areas far from the storm’s path have been flooded, including southern Mindanao, which has seen flooding and deadly landslides over the past two days, causing heavy rains nationwide. The toll brought the death toll to 40 on Mindanao and five elsewhere. At least 17 people are missing and nearly 20,000 people have been evacuated.

Bulldozers and backhoes attempted to clear a thick layer of limestone and mud in the village of Khon on Mindanao, home to about 100 people, after part of a nearby mountain collapsed on Friday. So far he has been pulled from the rubble by 14 people and many more are missing in the community. “Had he died of an illness, it would have been less painful,” villager Mercedes Mocadef told AFP. The dead girl’s mother was also missing in the disaster.

In recent years, landslides and flash floods caused by extensively deforested mountainsides in the Philippines have been among the deadliest hazards posed by typhoons. “There could be more than 100,” Lester Sinsuat, mayor of the nearby town of Datu Odin Sinsuat, told AFP. “The village (Kushion) has been buried under rocks and mud for more than a day, so this is already a recovery operation,” said Naguib-Sinalimbo Regional Civil Defense Director.

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. blamed local civil defense officials on Mindanao for storm preparations during a televised meeting on Saturday. “It’s important to look back and understand why this happened. Why were they not evacuated? Why are there so many casualties?” He said.

Mindanao is rarely hit by the 20 or so typhoons that hit the Philippines each year, but the storms that reach the region tend to be more deadly than Luzon and central parts of the country. Nalge’s eye was expected to pass south of Manila, a sprawling metropolis of more than 13 million people, on Saturday evening, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.

Pictures released by the Philippine Coast Guard show rescuers using an old refrigerator as a boat to drag children out of a flood-hit Leyte village. A storm hit the Philippines at the beginning of a long weekend as millions return home to visit the graves of their dead relatives. “Unless it is necessary or essential, people should avoid going out today because it is dangerous,” said National Civil Defense Director General Rafaelito Alejandro, adding that 5,000 rescue teams were on standby.

The Coast Guard has suspended ferry operations in most of the country due to rough seas, leaving thousands of passengers stranded in ports. Meanwhile, the Civil Aviation Authority said it had shelved more than 100 flights. Storms kill hundreds of people in the Philippines each year and plunge vast areas into perpetual poverty. Residents also have to deal with frequent earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and, in some areas, armed rebellions. Scientists warn storms are getting more powerful as the world warms due to climate change. – AFP

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