Saturday, 23 December 2017

Deadly flooding and landslides hit the Philippines

Tropical Storm Tembin has triggered widespread flooding [Manman Dejeto/AFP]
More than 100 people have been killed after Tropical Storm Tembin triggered floods and landslides in the Philippines.

The storm, known locally as Vinta, hit the southern island of Mindanao, bringing winds of 80 kilometres per hour and torrential rain. Dozens of people were missing on Saturday.

At least 48 people were killed in the hard-hit provinces of Lanao del Norte, where floodwaters from a mountain swept away several houses and villagers.

Mayor Bong Edding of Zamboanga del Norte province's Sibuco town told The Associated Press that a search-and-rescue operation was ongoing after more than 30 people were swept away by flash floods in the fishing village of Anungan. Five bodies had already been recovered.

"The floodwaters from the mountain came down so fast and swept away people and houses," Edding said. "It's really sad because Christmas is just a few days away, but these things happen beyond our control."

Rainfall totals from Tropical Storm Tembin are believed to be around 145 millimetres, which is not unusual for a storm in the Philippines. However, it hit a part of the country that is not prepared for such violent storms.

Mindanao avoids the majority of the tropical systems because of its location. Tropical storms do not form within 5-degrees latitude of the equator. As Mindanao lies between 6 and 9-degrees north, on average it only gets hit once every 12 years.

However, only six years ago, Tropical Storm Washi hit the island. Like embin, Washi wasn't a particularly strong storm, but it killed more than 1,249 people.

The storm brought heavy rain to regions where the natural forest had been logged or converted into pineapple plantations. This allowed the water to run off the relatively barren soils and create devastating flash floods.

These floods struck at night, killing many people as they slept in their beds.

After the disaster, Mayor Edding blamed years of logging for the tragedy, adding he and other officials would move to halt logging operations.

However, unless there is an active replanting programme to replace the trees, his efforts are likely to be futile.

Source: ALJ