Three dead, thousands flee as tropical storm Kai-Tak pounds central Philippines

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 December, 2017, 11:00pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 December, 2017, 11:02pm

At least three people were killed and tens of thousands driven from their homes by floods as Tropical Storm Kai-Tak pounded the eastern Philippines on Saturday, cutting off power and triggering landslides, officials said.

Kai-Tak, packing gusts of up to 110km/h, hit the country’s third-largest island Samar in the afternoon and tore through a region devastated by Super Typhoon Haiyan four years ago, the state weather service said.

Local officials reported three deaths on neighbouring Leyte island – a two-year-old boy who drowned in the town of Mahaplag, a woman buried by a landslide and another person who fell into a flooded manhole in Ormoc city.

Samar and Leyte, with a combined population of about 4.5 million, had borne the brunt of Haiyan in 2013, which left more than 7,350 people dead or missing.

Bus driver Felix Villaseran, his wife and four children hunkered down in their house in the Leyte city of Tacloban with 11 relatives whose homes were flooded from incessant rain.

“We have yet to shake off our phobia. I hope to God we don’t have a repeat of that,” said Villaseran, who lost 39 cousins in the Haiyan onslaught. “My missus stockpiled on groceries before the storm hit, but since we also have to feed these three other families we’re now running low on food.”

Military trucks drove through rising floodwaters on Samar and Leyte to rescue trapped people, with more than 77,000 said to be now in evacuation centres, local officials said.

Strong winds toppled trees and electricity pylons, knocking out power throughout the region while floods, small landslides and rockfalls blocked roads and buried some homes, local officials and witnesses said.

It was like a flashback again for residents of Tacloban
Sambo Yaokasin, vice mayor

Farmland in the mainly rural region was also under water, while seven people were injured by landslides and flying objects, the regional civil defence office said in a report.

A spokeswoman for the national government’s National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said it was trying to confirm reports of two other deaths from landslides and floods on the islands of Biliran and Dinagat.

“It was like a flashback again for residents of Tacloban city,” vice-mayor Sambo Yaokasin told ABS-CBN television station by phone, referring to the Haiyan disaster.

The station broadcast images of flooded streets and corrugated iron roofs flying off homes.

“Nearly half the villages here are flooded,” Marcelo Picardal, vice-governor of Eastern Samar province told ABS-CBN.

Three other people were missing in Ormoc after being swept away by floods on Saturday, mayor Richard Gomez told CNN Philippines.

“We need a lot of water and a lot of blankets,” Gomez said, citing widespread flooding that may have contaminated the tap water system in the city of 200,000 people.

The state weather service said more heavy rain was expected in the eastern part if the country as Kai-Tak was forecast to slice across the rest of the central Philippines over the weekend.

Ferry services on the storm’s path were suspended due to rough seas, the civil defence office said.