ABUYOG: The death toll from landslides and flooding in the Philippines triggered by tropical storm Megi hit 115 on Thursday, official figures showed, as more bodies were found in mud-caked villages.
Scores of people are still missing and feared dead after the strongest storm to strike the archipelago nation this year dumped heavy rain over several days, forcing tens of thousands into evacuation centres.
In the central province of Leyte – the worst affected by Megi – devastating landslides smashed farming and fishing communities, wiping out houses and transforming the landscape.
The disaster-prone region is regularly ravaged by storms – including a direct hit from Super Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 – with scientists warning they are becoming more powerful as the world gets warmer because of human-driven climate change.
Emergency personnel in Abuyog municipality have retrieved dozens of bodies from a coastal village destroyed by a landslide on Tuesday.
At least 26 people were killed and around 150 are missing, authorities said, with little hope of finding anyone else alive.
Many of those who died had hiked up the mountain to avoid flash floods, villagers told AFP.
“It sounded like a helicopter,” said Pilar councillor Anacleta Canuto, 44, describing the noise made by the landslide.
Canuto and her husband and their two children survived, but they lost at least nine relatives.
Pilar fisherman Santiago Dahonog, 38, said he rushed into the sea with two siblings and a nephew as the landslide hurtled towards them.
“We got out of the house, ran to the water and started swimming,” he told AFP. “I was the only survivor.”
Another 86 people were killed and dozens injured in vegetable, rice and coconut-growing villages around Baybay City last weekend, local authorities said. At least 117 are still missing.
The hardest hit was Kantagnos where 32 people died and 103 have not been found.
In the nearby village of Bunga, 17 people perished when a wave of sodden soil swept down a hill and slammed into the riverside community. Only a few rooftops are visible in the mud.
Three people also drowned on the main southern island of Mindanao, the national disaster agency said in its latest update.
Another three deaths previously reported in the central province of Negros Oriental were dropped from the tally after they were found to be unrelated to the storm.
Megi came four months after a super typhoon devastated swathes of the country, killing more than 400 and leaving hundreds of thousands homeless.
The Philippines – ranked among the most vulnerable nations to the impacts of climate change – is hit by an average of 20 storms every year.