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Rescuers search for 46 missing villagers

BROKEN BRIDGE The 52-meter concrete Caraycaray Bridge at Almeria town in Biliran province is rendered impassable after Tropical Storm “Urduja” ravaged provinces in Eastern and Western Visayas on Saturday. President Duterte visited the storm-hit areas on Monday. —MALACAÑANG PHOTO

Racing against time, rescuers used bulldozers to dig through mountains of mud to search for the missing after Tropical Storm “Urduja” (international name: Kai-tak) triggered landslides and flooding in Eastern Visayas and southern Luzon over the weekend.

Urduja, now a tropical depression, is expected to exit the Philippine area of responsibility on Tuesday, leaving a swath of destruction and more than 34 dead, mostly from drowning and landslides, and 46 others missing.

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Most of the dead were in Biliran province, which suffered the worst of the landslides, with many homes buried.

“There is an assumption that the missing are already dead,” said Sofronio Dacillo, a provincial disaster risk reduction and management officer.

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Biliran suffered massive damage to its roads, bridges and power system, which was knocked out on the weekend.

“It was like two months of rain fell in one day in Biliran. And because of this, the soil really softened and that is also why so many bridges were destroyed,” said presidential spokesperson Harry Roque.

President’s visit

President Rodrigo Duterte visited Biliran later on Monday to inspect the damage and rescue efforts.

The President ordered the fast-tracking of the delivery of food to affected communities and the repair of damage wrought by Urduja.

Diana Bernardes-Chawdhury, Biliran provincial economic and investment promotions officer, said Urduja was the worst storm to hit the province.

At least 24 bodies have been recovered since Sunday—12 in the capital town of Naval, one in Biliran, four in Almeria and seven in Caibiran.

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Rescuers were still looking for at least 27 others missing—16 in Naval, nine in Caibiran and one each in Almeria and in Biliran towns.

At least three bridges were damaged, isolating the province from its neighboring Leyte province.

Chawdhury said a nephew on a motorcycle died after he failed to notice that the Mother Mary Bridge had been washed away and fallen into the river.

What devastated Biliran was the incessant rains that started on Thursday night and peaked on Saturday with Urduja’s landfall.

When the sun finally came out on Sunday, the rice fields and several roads were covered with mud, she added.

It was a different case in Naval, which had the biggest number of casualties.

Paquito Jampas, a resident and former barangay chair of Lucsoon, said there was a tornado before a massive landslide buried eight houses in the village.

As of Monday noon, 13 bodies had been recovered in Lucsoon by a retrieval team.

Gerardo de la Cruz, principal of Lucsoon Elementary School, said that while he lost his house to Urduja, he helped in the retrieval operations since one of those killed was a pupil in the school.

Food, water needed

“We are calling on our government to send us relief assistance. We need food and water. Up to this time, we have yet to receive assistance from our government,” De la Cruz said.

Aside from lack of assistance, Pablito Kuizon, 55, of Barangay Padre Inocentes Garcia, also in Naval, said the community had no power since Saturday.

“Gasoline stations in Naval refuse to sell gasoline. We don’t have water after our sources located in Lucsoon and Talustusan were damaged due to the landslides,” said Kuizon, provincial chair of People’s Surge.

4 killed in Masbate

At least three people were found dead in the towns of Palanas and Cataingan after they were swept away by flash floods on Sunday morning, bringing the number of storm-related deaths in Masbate province to four.

The storm left at least P6 million worth of damage to roads and bridges hit by landslides and floods in the provinces of Romblon and Marinduque.

At Puerto Princesa City in Palawan province, where Urduja dumped heavy rains on Sunday, low-lying villages experienced knee-deep floods.

In Oriental Mindoro province, the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council at Naujan recommended the passage of a resolution by the town council to declare a state of calamity.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development said on Monday 190,247 people were staying in 572 evacuation centers in Bicol; Western, Central and Eastern Visayas; and the Mimaropa and Caraga regions.

The Philippine Coast Guard said operations of commercial sea vessels normalized on Monday. —WITH REPORTS FROM NESTOR P. BURGOS JR., SUZENE CAJEGAS, REDEMPTO ANDA, MADONNA VIROLA, MARICAR CINCO, FRINSTON LIM, JULIE M. AURELIO, JAYMEE T. GAMIL AND AFP

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TAGS: Biliran, Kai-Tak, Tropical Storm Urduja
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