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More than 120 killed, 150 missing after tropical storm hits Philippines

Posted at 10:25 AM, Dec 23, 2017

Tropical Storm Tembin slammed into another set of Philippine islands late Saturday, hours after unleashing devastating flooding and landslides that has left dozens dead on the southern island of Mindanao, authorities said.

Officials have given conflicting death tolls.

At least 123 people have been killed and 159 are missing, Mina Marasigan, spokeswoman for the Philippine National Disaster Risk Reduction & Management Council said during a press briefing Sunday.

Earlier, the CEO of the Philippine Red Cross said on Twitter that 156 people have died since the storm hit Friday; the country's national disaster risk management council put the death toll at 75.


Tembin, also known as Vinta in the Philippines, made a second landfall Saturday night over Balabac Island, at the southern tip of Palawan province.

Forecasters warned residents to brace for high winds and heavy rain -- conditions similar to those that devastated parts of Mindanao hours earlier.

Tembin initially struck Friday, dropping more than 140 millimeters (5.5 inches) of rain in some parts of Mindanao, overwhelming artificial dams and sending floodwaters from mountainous areas down to communities below.

The Mindanao province of Lanao del Norte was especially hard-hit. Video there showed people holding onto ropes Friday as they tried to cross a rushing, muddy river of floodwater that had crashed through a community.

Other pictures distributed by Agence France-Presse showed rescuers wading through waist-high water Friday as they escorted people to safer ground in the cities of Davao and Cagayan de Oro.

The storm has displaced more than 70,000 people in the southern Philippines, 50,000 of which were staying in shelters, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said Saturday.

Philippine Red Cross CEO Richard Gordon said on Twitter that 291 people were missing and 86 were injured.


Burying the dead


On Saturday, some residents in Lanao del Norte were burying the dead, even before the storm was over, said Sohaimen M. Agal, secretary of the nonprofit Al Jalis As-Salih Islamic Center, which is organizing relief drives in storm-hit areas.

Lanao del Norte has a high Muslim population. Following Muslim tradition that encourages burials as soon as possible, residents scrambled to complete them.

"They're very busy. ... They need to dig the ground to bury their friends," Agal said.

Late Saturday, the center of the storm was heading west, roughly between Palawan and the Malaysian section of Borneo island, according to the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical Astronomical Services Administration.

Tembin will bring moderate to heavy rain to Palawan province's southern end -- a largely rural area with vast forests and palm oil plantations. Light to heavy rains also could continue to fall in the central and southern Philippines through Sunday.

The storm was packing maximum sustained winds of 105 kilometers per hour (65 mph) late Saturday.

Tembin is forecast to head out over the South China Sea, potentially getting close to Vietnam's southeastern coast by Monday.

Tembin is the Philippines' second deadly tropical storm this month. Last weekend, a storm known there as Urduja struck the central Visayas region, killing at least 27 people.


4-year-old among those killed


Most of the deaths resulting from Tembin on Mindanao were in Lanao del Norte province, with additional ones elsewhere on the island, including Payao and Lanao del Sur, CNN Philippines reported.

"(When) these artificial dams were not able to withstand the pressure anymore, flash floods came down from the mountains," said Mina Marasigan, spokeswoman for the Philippines National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

Among the dead were a 4-year-old who was trapped in a landslide in Payao and a prisoner who was killed when the roof of a jail collapsed from strong winds and rains in Butuan City, CNN Philippines reported, citing the Philippine Red Cross.

Tembin struck more than a week after the Philippine governmentvoted to extend martial law on Mindanao following a year in which Islamic militants shocked the nation in taking -- and holding for several months -- pockets of a Muslim-majority city there.

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