Update: Philippines typhoon death toll rises as clean up begins

People in flood-hit areas of Manila are cleaning up after Typhoon Vamco swept across the city and surrounding provinces on Thursday leaving at least 26 people dead [Ted Aljibe/AFP]
People in flood-hit areas of Manila are cleaning up after Typhoon Vamco swept across the city and surrounding provinces on Thursday leaving at least 26 people dead

Police in the Philippines said the death toll from Typhoon Vamco has risen to 26, with dozens still missing or injured after the storm deluged Manila and it’s surrounding provinces, triggering some of the capital’s worst floods in years.

Fourteen people remain missing after Vamco, the 21st typhoon to hit the country this year, swept across Luzon, the Philippines’ main island, tens of thousands of homes were submerged by floods, as key highways turned into rivers, many people remained without power or water supplies on Friday morning, as the floods began to recede. In Marikina City, one of the hardest hit areas of the capital, residents had begun to clean up sweeping debris and mud from their homes and piling mud-covered possessions from washing machines to televisions, sofas and bicycles onto the streets. “We will only stop search and rescue when local officials tell us everyone has been rescued,” Mark Timbal, a spokesman for the disaster agency, told the radio station DZMM. Many residents took refuge on rooftops and the agency said it had rescued around 6,000 people across the capital’s suburbs.

Among the casualties were two men who drowned and a child who was killed in a landslide in Camarines province, southeast of Manila. Three people died after a warehouse collapsed in Cavite province, the disaster agency said, the numbers are subject to verification by the disaster agency, which has, so far, recorded 14 deaths, with eight injured and 14 missing. The military has put the number of fatalities at 39 with 22 missing, suggesting the toll could rise further, authorities vowed to distribute food and other essentials to victims, many of whom were still cleaning up after typhoons Molave and Goni that killed dozens of people, destroyed tens of thousands of houses and knocked out power to swathes of the country in recent weeks.

Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told a briefing that government agencies had started to clear landslides and debris, after President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday pledged shelter, relief goods, financial aid and counselling for affected residents. Police, soldiers and the coast guard have been deployed to assist in the rescue efforts, with operations made more complicated by the coronavirus outbreak. Virtual classes and government work remain suspended in Luzon, home to half of the Philippines’ 108 million population.

Defending the response to the latest disaster, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the government “acted fast”. “Unfortunately we couldn’t do anything about the floodwater which rose too fast but we made sure no one will be left behind,” he said.

Officials said many people had ignored orders to evacuate their homes and the fast-rising waters caught them by surprise. Vamco, the eighth typhoon to hit the Philippines in the past two months, is now gaining strength and heading towards Vietnam, where devastating floods and mudslides during the past month have killed at least 160 people.

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