At least 18 bodies, including those of children, have been dug up by rescuers from the vast muddy mound that now covers much of Kusiong village in southern Maguindanao province, among the hardest hit by the tropical storm Nalgae, which blew from the northwest of the Philippines. early Sunday.
Authorities fear an additional 80 to 100 people, including entire families, may have been buried by the deluge or swept away by flash floods in Kusiong between Thursday evening and early Friday, according to Naguib Sinarimbo, interior minister of a Muslim autonomous region ruled by former separatist guerrillas.
Nalgae, which had a wide swath of rain, left at least 61 dead in eight provinces and one city in the Philippine archipelago, including Kusiong, and a trail of destruction in one of the most disaster-prone countries. in the world.
The Kusiong disaster, populated mainly by the Teduray ethnic minority group, was tragic as its more than 2,000 villagers have carried out disaster preparedness drills every year for decades to prepare for a tsunami due to a deadly history . But they weren’t as prepared for the dangers that could come from Mount Minandar, where their village sits at the foot of the hills, Sinarimbo said.
“When people heard the warning bells, they ran and gathered in a church on high ground,” Sinarimbo told The Associated Press, citing testimonies from Kusiong villagers.
“The problem is that it was not a tsunami that inundated them, but a large volume of water and mud that came down from the mountain,” he said.
In August 1976, an 8.1 magnitude earthquake and tsunami in the Gulf of Moro that struck around midnight claimed thousands of lives and devastated coastal provinces in one of the deadliest natural disasters in the country. Philippine history.
Located between the Moro Gulf and the 446-meter (1,464-foot) Mount Minandar, Kusiong was among the hardest hit by the 1976 disaster and the village has never forgotten the tragedy. Elderly villagers, who survived the tsunami and powerful earthquake, passed the nightmarish story to their children, warning them to be prepared.
“Every year they hold drills to prepare for a tsunami. Someone was in charge of sounding the alarm and they designated high ground where people should run,” Sinarimbo said. “Villagers even learned the sound of a big wave approaching based on the memory of tsunami survivors.”
“But there wasn’t as much focus on mountainside geohazards,” he said.
Bulldozers, backhoes and loaders were brought to Kusiong on Saturday along with more than 100 army, police and volunteer rescuers from other provinces, but they were unable to dig at a spot where survivors had said the church was below because the muddy mound was still dangerously soft, officials said.
The national disaster response agency reported 22 missing from the onslaught of the storm in several provinces. Sinarimbo said many missing in Kusiong were not included in the government’s official tally because entire families may have been buried and no members were left to provide names and details to authorities.
Army Lt. Col. Dennis Almorato, who visited the community hit by the mudslide on Saturday, said the deluge of mud had buried about 60 rural homes in about 5 hectares (12 acres) of the community. He gave no estimate of how many villagers might have been buried, but described the extent of the mudslide as “crushing” and said the overnight disaster may have happened quickly.
A regional army commander, Major General Roy Galido, has been ordered to lead an emergency command center to direct search and recovery work in Kusiong, officials said.
Stormy weather across much of the country prompted the Coast Guard to ban sea travel in dangerously rough seas as millions of Filipinos planned to travel over a long weekend to visit relatives’ graves and for family reunions on All Saints Day in the predominantly Roman Catholic nation.
More than 100 domestic and international flights were canceled, Manila International Airport was briefly closed in stormy weather and sea travel in rough seas was banned by the coast guard, stranding thousands of passengers.
Floodwaters inundated many provinces and cities, trapping some people on their roofs, and more than 700 homes were damaged. More than 168,000 people have fled to evacuation camps. President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. expressed his disappointment at the high death toll during a televised meeting with disaster mitigation officials on Saturday.
“We should have done better,” Marcos Jr. said. to evacuate them away from flash floods.”
About 20 typhoons and storms hit the Philippine archipelago each year. It is located on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, a region along much of the rim of the Pacific Ocean where numerous volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occur, making the nation one of the most prone disasters in the world.