Storm and Flash Floods in Southern Philippines

(Photo: AP)

Tropical Storm Washi (known locally as Sendong) hit southern Philippines Friday night and caused overnight flash flooding with more than 200 people dead and  400 still missing. The worst hit areas are the two cities of Iligan and Cagayan de Oro in Mindanao, the country’s second largest island. It is considered as the worst flood recorded in the history of the two cities.

Two rivers overflowed around midnight due to 10 hours of rain and the high tide made the situation worse.   Rushing waters and strong current swept away cars and demolished houses made of light materials.  Since most of the residents were fast asleep, some of them were not able to escape from the devastating flood waters.

Around 2,000 people were rescued including those who sought refuge on their rooftops. Majority of the casualties died from drowning while some were killed in landslides.

According to authorities, storm warnings were issued but the residents were so complacent and even underestimated the threats that the storm may bring.  Mindanao region is not frequently visited by typhoons and rainfall is evenly distributed throughout the year.

More than 10,000 soldiers are currently involved in the rescue and recovery operations.  About 20,000 people are temporarily sheltered in 10 evacuation centers in Cagayan de Oro.  Domestic flights have been cancelled including sea transport services.

The cost of damage to properties, infrastructure and agricultural crops are still unknown.  An investigation is also underway on a report that the flash floods swept away an entire village.

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