Rescuers have pulled out four survivors and three bodies but several more were missing after a massive landslide set off by a typhoon crashed down on two government buildings in a northern Philippine mountain province, officials said Wednesday.
Regional police Chief Superintendent Rolando Nana said at least 18 more people still are missing from the landslide in the far-flung town of Natonin in Mountain province. Smaller land- and rockslides on roads leading to Natonin have slowed the advance of more rescuers and earth-moving equipment.
Disaster response officer Jennifer Pangket said there could be up to 24 people still trapped in the landslide, which occurred as Typhoon Yutu pummeled the region Tuesday. At least nine people have died due to the typhoon, which blew out of the northern Philippines on Tuesday.
“It’s a massive landslide and boulders also came rolling down from the mountain. The buildings got demolished and entombed. They’re gone,” government engineer Junel Emengga told The Associated Press by phone from the site of the landslide.
More than 100 workers, police, firefighters and volunteers were scrambling to find more survivors in the avalanche using shovels and their hands because earth-moving equipment could not go through roads blocked by smaller landslides, he said.
One new building was being constructed and an old one was being expanded, he said.
Emengga said he and other staffers of the Department of Public Works and Highways did not work at the four-story buildings Tuesday because of the typhoon but other workers from a private company continued to work. Nearby residents also sought shelter in the buildings when their homes were hit by the landslides and fierce wind, he said.
Typhoon Yutu weakened considerably from its earlier super typhoon status over the Pacific Ocean before slamming into the Philippines’ northeastern Isabela province before dawn Tuesday. Aside from the landslides, it also knocked down trees and power posts and ripped roofs off houses and stores, officials said.
The storm weakened further as it blew across mountains and then barreled westward through provinces still recovering from the deaths and devastation wrought by Typhoon Mangkhut in mid-September.
Yutu blew out into the South China Sea later Tuesday and weakened into a storm, Philippine forecasters said.
One of the world’s most disaster-prone countries, the Philippines is battered by about 20 typhoons and storms each year. It is also located in the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” the arc of seismic faults around the Pacific Ocean where earthquakes and volcanic activity are common.
Thousands evacuated as Typhoon Yutu strikes Philippines
Typhoon Yutu slammed into the Philippines Tuesday with fierce winds that sheared off roofs and snapped trees in half, after thousands were evacuated ahead of the powerful storm's arrival.
Cutting a path just south of last month's Typhoon Mangkhut, which killed dozens, the new storm tore across the Philippines' most populous island and dumped heavy rains along the way.
Search crews were just beginning to assess the damage wrought by Yutu, which made landfall early Tuesday with sustained winds of 150 kilometers (95 miles) per hour and gusts up to 210 kph.
Authorities said they were probing reports of one person missing after a boat capsized as the storm was barrelling toward the disaster-prone nation.
"We see some branches on the roads and so on, but it is the flooding that is destroying houses here," International Federation of the Red Cross spokeswoman Caroline Haga told AFP from Nueva Vizcaya province. "People are needing to be rescued."
Nearly 10,000 people fled their homes ahead of Yutu's arrival because they live in low-lying areas susceptible to flooding and rivers tend to overflow their banks.
The high winds flattened flimsy homes, tore the roofs off others and downed power poles as well as trees.
Philippine disaster officials said the storm was less powerful than Mangkhut, which struck six weeks ago and left more than 100 dead. Most of the fatalities were due to a deadly landslide in the mining area of Itogon.
A month of heavy monsoon rains had left mountainous areas in the northern Philippines primed for landslides, which were unleashed by the Mangkhut's torrential downpours.
Authorities near last month's deadly landslide evacuated at least 1,000 people from the Itogon area as Yutu approached.
An average of 20 typhoons and storms lash the Philippines each year, killing hundreds of people and leaving millions in near-perpetual poverty.
The Philippines' deadliest storm on record is Super Typhoon Haiyan, which left more than 7,350 people dead or missing across the central Philippines in November 2013.