Philippines hunts for missing after its deadliest typhoon this year

MANILA (Reuters) - Philippine police and soldiers joined a search on Friday for missing people after Typhoon Vamco killed at least 42 people, as residents returned to devastated homes following the worst flooding in years in Manila and nearby provinces.

Vamco, the 21st and most deadly cyclone to hit the country this year, tore through the main island of Luzon late on Wednesday and early Thursday, just as the country was reeling from Goni, the world’s strongest typhoon of 2020, which killed 25 people and flattened thousands of homes.

Tens of thousands of homes were engulfed by the floods and as the water receded in areas such as Marikina, a suburb east of Manila, homes covered in debris and caked in mud emerged.

“All the houses here were submerged in mud and in water,” said,” Mike Rusio, 51, told Reuters as he scooped buckets full of mud from his two-storey home.

Heavy equipment was also being brought in to clear furniture, trash and cars blocking roads.

Data published by the police showed that 42 people had died, 43 were injured and 20 were still missing.

Successive typhoons - eight in the past two months - add to the challenges on a government battling community coronavirus infections and an economic recession.

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Among the casualties, five died and six more people were missing in a landslide in Banaue town. Three people died when a warehouse collapsed in Cavite province.

A landslide near a gold mine killed 10 people in Nueva Vizcaya province north of Manila, police chief Ranser Evasco told DZBB radio. In Cagayan province, four died in a landslide and two drowned, said Governor Manuel Mamba.

The disaster agency said nearly 75,000 people were still packed into evacuation centres, some without proper separation between families and many evacuees not wearing masks.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque said makeshift shelters increased the risk of COVID-19 transmission, alongside leptospirosis and diarrhoea.

The Philippines has the second-highest number of COVID-19 infections and casualties in Southeast Asia behind Indonesia.

After Vamco, up to three more typhoons are expected to lash the Philippines before the end of December, the state weather forecaster warned.

The Philippines, an archipelago of more than 7,600 islands, experiences around 20 tropical storms annually.

About 450,000 households in and around Manila remain without power and virtual classes and government work are still suspended in Luzon, home to half of the Philippines’ 108 million population.

Vamco is approaching central Vietnam, where devastating floods and mudslides since early October have killed at least 160 people. It is expected to make landfall on Saturday.

Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales and Jay Ereno; Additional Reporting by Enrico dela Cruz; Editing by Ed Davies and Martin Petty