Philippines races to free 23 trapped under landslide

Philippines races to free 23 trapped under landslide

A handout photo made available by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) shows rescuers looking for survivors after a landslide in the town of Natonin, Mountain Province, Philippines, on Wednesday. (EPA photo)
A handout photo made available by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) shows rescuers looking for survivors after a landslide in the town of Natonin, Mountain Province, Philippines, on Wednesday. (EPA photo)

MANILA, Philippine rescuers worked with bare hands and shovels to try to free 23 people trapped under earth and rubble on Wednesday, after Typhoon Yutu dumped heavy rains on the northern mountainous region, triggering floods and deadly landslides.

Six people were rescued and two bodies pulled out from a building that collapsed in Natonin in northern Mountain province, part of the Cordillera region where authorities said 11 people were killed on Tuesday, all but one of them in landslides.

Typhoon Yutu swept across the main island of Luzon on Tuesday with winds of 140km per hour and gusts of up to 230 kph. It came six weeks after Super Typhoon Mangkhut caused nearly 50 landslides in the Cordilleras, killing more than 70 people.

Some 360 police, soldiers, firefighters and public works personnel were digging through the mud that engulfed the building where 20 labourers, an engineer, three security guards and six or seven residents had taken shelter.

Twenty-three were believed to still be trapped.

"It was completely buried," Edgar Posadas, spokesman for the Office of Civil Defence, told reporters.

"Time is of the essence. The problem is not the personnel, but access."

Among those killed were four children aged between five and 11, and a man who drowned in an overflowing river. Radio reported a man was electrocuted in Isabela province, where Yutu made landfall.

At least six others were killed in separate mudslides also in Natonin and in other mountainous provinces of Ifugao and Kalinga, according to separate government reports. At least four people reported swept away by swollen rivers haven’t been found.

Mudslides in surrounding areas are making it difficult to reach Natonin and other towns and speed up rescue efforts, the disaster-monitoring agency said. A bridge linking the northern provinces of Cagayan and Isabela was destroyed by heavy flooding, the Public Works Department said on its Facebook page. Some roads in Isabela remain impassable as trees were knocked down by Yutu’s winds, preventing the delivery of relief goods, DZBB radio reported.

An estimated 112.2 million pesos (69.6 million baht) worth of farm output, mostly rice, were damaged in farmlands in northern and central Luzon, according to the Agriculture Department.

Yutu continues to weaken while moving over the South China Sea, with maximum winds of 85 kilometres per hour and gusts of up to 105 kph, according to the 5pm report by the Philippine weather bureau. All storm signals were lifted.

Yutu is the 18th tropical storm to hit the Philippines in 2018 where about 20 cyclones pass through each year. In 2013, Super Typhoon Haiyan killed more than 6,300 people in the Southeast Asian nation. Last month, Category 5 storm Mangkhut killed at least 82 people, including dozens after a landslide in Benguet province, and damaged almost $500 million worth of farm output.

Thousands of people in the typhoon's path were evacuated before the storm hit, mostly in mountainous, coastal and river areas at risk of floods, storm surges and mudslides.

When it struck the Philippines, Yutu's winds were half the strength of those it packed five days earlier, when as a super typhoon it piled into the US Northern Mariana islands, about 6,000km west of Hawaii, killing one person, wounding more than 130 and damaging critical infrastructure.

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