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Agaton: Mud keeps yielding bodies

/ 05:32 AM April 14, 2022
 Rescue workers on Wednesday carry body bags containing the retrieved remains of victims of a landslide. STORY: Agaton: Mud keeps yielding bodies

RISING TOLL | Rescue workers on Wednesday, April 13, 2022, carry body bags containing the retrieved remains of victims of a landslide that slammed the village of Bunga in Baybay town, Leyte province, days after heavy rains inundated the town at the height of Tropical Depression “Agaton” (international name: Megi). (Agence France-Presse)

TACLOBAN CITY, Leyte, Philippines — The death toll from the devastation caused by Tropical Depression Agaton (international name: Megi) has tripled to at least 75 on Wednesday as rescuers dug up more bodies in villages crushed by rain-induced landslides.

The City of Baybay in Leyte province, which accounted for 64 of the casualties, has been placed under a state of calamity, bearing the brunt of the first tropical depression to hit the country this year.

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Mayor Jose Carlos Cari of Baybay said the emergency declaration issued on Tuesday would be valid for a month and would allow the city government to use its calamity funds to address the immediate needs of residents as well as control the prices of essential goods.

As of Wednesday, 14 of the dead in Baybay were from Barangay Mailhi; 26 from Kantagnos; 12 from Bunga; three from San Agustin; two each from the villages of Maypatag and Pangasugan, and one each from Can-ipa, Candadam, Zone 21, Hicgop, and Igang.

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Three people were also killed in the province of Negros Oriental and three on the main island of Mindanao, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).

In the municipality of Abuyog also in Leyte, which was hit by several landslides, rescuers retrieved five bodies in the town’s three villages.

Based on a report from the Leyte police provincial headquarters, 2-year-old girl Zharyl Dae Palima and a still-unidentified person died in a landslide in Barangay Pilar. Two children also died in Barangay Tib-o—Jay-ar Cortezo and Rogelio Baristo—both 10. The lone fatality in Barangay Bahay was identified as Ellen Javier, 40.

According to police investigators, almost all of the houses in Pilar, which has more than 400 residents, were covered with mud and fallen trees that cascaded from the mountain.

Missing, injured

Data from the City Risk Reduction and Disaster Management Office of Baybay showed that 27 were declared missing—21 in Barangay Bunga, five in Can-ipa, and one in Guadalupe. But the number of missing persons may rise to more than 100. Based on the Facebook post of Cari on Wednesday, 109 people in Kantagnos alone were declared missing.

At least 105 persons in Baybay were injured while 4,132 families composed of 19,932 individuals were evacuated due to the landslides and flood.

In Western Visayas, massive flooding also hit Capiz province and northern Iloilo that shocked many residents who survived Supertyphoon “Yolanda” in 2013 and other devastating typhoons.

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“We were still transferring our belongings and starting to evacuate when the water level rose so fast and so high. Even my 78-year-old mother has not experienced this kind of flooding in her lifetime,” elementary school teacher Ariane Parreño Pedrosa told the Inquirer in a telephone interview on Wednesday.

Pedrosa, 37, and other residents used tables of the public market in Barangay Dacuton in Dumarao town in Capiz to climb to the roof of the market at 5 p.m. on Monday as the floodwaters reached the second floor of the tallest house in the area.

Fair weather

She and about 80 relatives and neighbors age 12 to 96—including two pregnant women—stayed there until 2 a.m. or for nine hours while waiting for the floodwaters to subside.

“From the rooftop, we can only watch refrigerators, gas stoves, sala sets and other belongings being swept away by floodwaters,” Pedrosa said.

Whipping up seas, Agaton forced dozens of ports to suspend operations and stranded thousands of people at the start of Holy Week, one of the busiest travel periods of the year in the country.

On Wednesday morning, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) said Agaton has dissipated.

However, it noted that scattered rainshowers will prevail over Quezon, Bicol Region, Oriental Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Visayas.

Another weather disturbance, Typhoon “Malakas,” left the Philippine area of responsibility after staying for a few hours on Tuesday, but Pagasa said it would still bring rough seas over the northern and eastern Luzon and the northern and eastern seaboards of the main island. It will not directly affect the country.

“These conditions may be risky for most seacraft. Mariners of small seacraft are advised to remain in port or take shelter, while those operating larger vessels are advised to take precautionary measures when venturing out to sea and, if possible, avoid navigating in these conditions, Pagasa said.

Fair weather is expected across the country for the rest of the Holy Week.

An aerial shot taken on Wednesday shows the reach of the landslide that hit Kantagnos in Baybay, Leyte

BURIED VILLAGE | An aerial shot taken on Wednesday shows the reach of the landslide that hit Kantagnos in Baybay, Leyte. Sixty-four of the 75 deaths so far reported in the aftermath of Tropical Depression “Agaton” are in Baybay. —AFP

Farm damage

Scientists have long warned that typhoons are strengthening more rapidly as the planet becomes warmer due to climate change.

The Philippines — ranked among the most vulnerable nations to its impacts — is hit by an average of 20 storms every year.

Aside from the loss of lives, Agaton also caused P423.8 million in farm damage as of Wednesday morning, according to the Department of Agriculture (DA).

It said Agaton affected 6,557 farmers in the regions of Western Visayas, Eastern Visayas and Caraga. The volume of production loss was placed at 25,165 metric tons covering 10,920 hectares of agricultural areas.

The rice sector accounted for P403.5 million of the losses as the storm wrought havoc on 10,729 ha of palay farms, destroying 24,738 MT of the staple.

Raul Montemayor, Federation of Free Farmers Cooperatives national manager, said their group has yet to check the situation on the ground but the damage incurred by the rice sector could be smaller.

“I would think most of the palay crops have already been harvested before Agaton and farmers are waiting for the onset of the rainy season before planting again. There are not that many irrigated areas in Eastern Visayas that are able to plant in the dry season,” he added.

Also affected by Agaton were corn and other high-value crops as well as livestock. According to the DA, the amounts were subject to validation as it expected to record additional damage in the ravaged areas in the coming days.

—WITH REPORTS FROM AFP, FRANCES MANGOSING, JORDEENE B. LAGARE AND NESTOR P. BURGOS JR.

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Surprised: Agaton flooding sends Capiz residents to rooftops

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