Tropical Storm Tembin leaves dozens dead in the Philippines

Updated 2:15 AM EST, Sun December 24, 2017
02:52 - Source: CNN
Tropical Storm leaves dozens dead

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The storm has displaced more than 70,000 people in the southern Philippines

Tembin is the Philippines' second deadly tropical storm this month

CNN —  

Tropical Storm Tembin slammed into another set of Philippine islands late Saturday, hours after unleashing devastating flooding and landslides that has left dozens dead on the southern island of Mindanao, authorities said.

Officials have given conflicting death tolls.

Officials have given conflicting death tolls since the storm ravaged towns and displaced thousands.

Earlier, the CEO of the Philippine Red Cross tweeted that 156 people had died.

Tembin’s second landfall Saturday night was over Balabac Island, at the southern tip of Palawan province.

Forecasters warned residents to brace for high winds and heavy rain, the same conditions that devastated parts of Mindanao hours earlier.

Tembin initially struck Friday, dropping more than 140 millimeters (5.5 inches) of rain in some parts of Mindanao, overwhelming artificial dams and sending floodwaters from mountainous areas down to communities below.

The Mindanao province of Lanao del Norte was especially hard-hit. Video there showed people holding onto ropes Friday as they tried to cross a rushing, muddy river of floodwater that had crashed through a community.

Other pictures distributed by Agence France-Presse showed rescuers wading through waist-high water Friday as they escorted people to safer ground in the cities of Davao and Cagayan de Oro.

Police officers evacuate a baby Friday in Cagayan de Oro after Tropical Storm Tembin hit.
Police officers evacuate a baby Friday in Cagayan de Oro after Tropical Storm Tembin hit.

The storm has displaced more than 70,000 people in southern Philippines, 50,000 of whom were staying in shelters, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said Saturday.

At least 291 people are missing there and 86 were injured, Philippine Red Cross CEO Richard Gordon tweeted.

Burying the dead

On Saturday, some residents in Lanao del Norte were burying the dead, even before the storm was over, said Sohaimen M. Agal, secretary of the nonprofit Al Jalis As-Salih Islamic Center, which is organizing relief drives in storm-hit areas.

Lanao del Norte has a high Muslim population. Following Muslim tradition that encourages burials as soon as possible, residents scrambled to complete them.

“They’re very busy. … They need to dig the ground to bury their friends,” Agal said.

By early Sunday, the center of the storm was 290 kilometers (180 miles) south of Pagasa Island, according to the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical Astronomical Services Administration. The agency referred to it as Typhoon Vinta early Sunday.

The storm system will bring moderate to heavy rain to Palawan province’s southern end – a largely rural area with vast forests and palm oil plantations. Light to heavy rains also could continue to fall in the central and southern Philippines through Sunday.

The storm was packing maximum sustained winds of 120 kilometers per hour (75 mph) Sunday morning.

Tembin is the Philippines’ second deadly tropical storm this month. Last weekend, a storm known there as Urduja struck the central Visayas region, killing at least 27 people.

4-year-old among those killed

Most of the deaths resulting from Tembin on Mindanao were in Lanao del Norte province, with additional ones elsewhere on the island, including Payao and Lanao del Sur.

“(When) these artificial dams were not able to withstand the pressure anymore, flash floods came down from the mountains,” said Mina Marasigan, spokeswoman for the Philippines National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

Among the dead were a 4-year-old who was trapped in a landslide in Payao and a prisoner who was killed when the roof of a jail collapsed from strong winds and rains in Butuan City, CNN Philippines reported, citing the Philippine Red Cross.

Tembin struck more than a week after the Philippine government voted to extend martial law on Mindanao following a year in which Islamic militants shocked the nation in taking – and holding for several months – pockets of a Muslim-majority city there.

Journalist Buena Bernal and CNN’s Bijan Hosseini, Allison Chinchar, Stella Ko and Euan McKirdy contributed to this report.