Philippine rescuers on Monday (Oct 31) waded through thigh-deep mud using long pieces of wood to search for bodies buried by a landslide, as the death toll from a powerful storm rose to 101.
Just over half of the fatalities were from a series of flash floods and landslides unleashed by Tropical Storm Nalgae, which destroyed villages on the southern island of Mindanao on Friday.
Mindanao is rarely hit by the 20 or so typhoons that strike the Philippines each year, but storms that do reach the region tend to be deadlier than in Luzon and central parts of the country.
There is little hope of finding survivors in the worst-hit areas after the storm swept across the archipelago nation, inundating communities in and around the capital Manila over the weekend.
The national disaster agency has recorded 66 people still missing and scores of others injured.
Perfidia Seguendia, 71, and her family lost all their belongings except the clothes they were wearing when they fled to their neighbour’s two-storey house in Noveleta municipality, south of Manila.
“Everything was flooded – our fridge, washing machine, motorcycle, TV, everything,” Seguendia told AFP.
“All we managed to do was to cry because we can’t really do anything about it. We weren’t able to save anything, just our lives.”
The Philippine Coast Guard posted pictures on Facebook showing its personnel in devastated Kusiong village, in Maguindanao del Norte province of Mindanao, struggling through thick, thigh-deep mud and water as they searched for more bodies.
Kusiong was buried by a massive landslide, which created a huge mound of debris, just below several picturesque mountain peaks.
Rescuers poked long pieces of wood into the morass looking for five missing villagers, after recovering 20 bodies in recent days, the coast guard said.
Twelve of the dead, including seven from one family, were buried Monday in two mass graves dug by a backhoe.
Mourners, who survived the landslide, laid flowers and candles at the site.
“We have shifted our operation from search and rescue to retrieval because the chances of survival after two days are almost nil,” said Naguib Sinarimbo, civil defence chief of the Bangsamoro region in Mindanao.
Meanwhile, survivors faced the heartbreaking task of cleaning up their sodden homes.
Residents shovelled mud from their houses and shops after piling their furniture and other belongings in the streets of Noveleta.
“In my entire life living here, it’s the first time we experienced this kind of flooding,” said Joselito Ilano, 55, whose house was flooded by waist-high water.
“I am used to flooding here but this is just the worst, I was caught by surprise.”
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