Philippines races to free 23 trapped under landslide

October 31, 2018 - 5:41 PM
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Toppled electric post
A bicycle rider approaches a toppled electric post on a provincial road in Barangay Lactawan, Solano, Nueva Vizcaya as Typhoon Rosita battered Luzon yesterday. (The STAR/Victor Martin)

MANILA — Philippine rescuers worked with bare hands and shovels to try to free 23 people trapped under earth and rubble on Wednesday, after Typhoon Yutu dumped heavy rains on the northern mountainous region, triggering floods and deadly landslides.

Six people were rescued and two bodies pulled out from a building that collapsed in northern Mountain province, part of the Cordillera region where authorities said 11 people were killed on Tuesday, all but one of them in landslides.

Typhoon Yutu swept across the main island of Luzon on Tuesday with winds of 140 km per hour (87 miles per hour) and gusts of up to 230 kph (142 mph). It came six weeks after Super Typhoon Mangkhut caused nearly 50 landslides in the Cordilleras, killing more than 70 people.

Some 360 police, soldiers, firefighters and public works personnel were digging through the mud that engulfed the building where 20 laborers, an engineer, three security guards and six or seven residents had taken shelter.

Twenty-three were believed to still be trapped.

“It was completely buried,” Edgar Posadas, spokesman for the Office of Civil Defence, told reporters.

“Time is of the essence. The problem is not the personnel, but access.”

Among those killed were four children aged between five and 11, and a man who drowned in an overflowing river. Radio reported a man was electrocuted in Isabela province, where Yutu made landfall.

Thousands of people in the typhoon’s path were evacuated before the storm hit, mostly in mountainous, coastal and river areas at risk of floods, storm surges and mudslides.

When it struck the Philippines, Yutu’s winds were half the strength of those it packed five days earlier, when as a super typhoon it piled into the U.S. Northern Mariana islands, about 6,000 km (3,700 miles) west of Hawaii, killing one person, wounding more than 130 and damaging critical infrastructure.

Yutu, the 18th typhoon to hit the Philippines this year, was moving towards southern China on Wednesday and had weakened to a tropical storm with winds of 102 kph (63 mph), according to the U.S. Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Hawaii. —Additional Reporting by Manuel Mogato; Writing by Martin Petty and Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Neil Fullick and Nick Macfie