THE DEATH toll in the Philippines from typhoon Ompong (international name: Mangkhut) has climbed to 81 and could hit triple digits as searchers dig through a landslide where dozens are presumed dead, authorities said Wednesday.
Mangkhut swamped farm fields in the nation’s agricultural north and smashed houses when it tore through at the weekend with violent winds and heavy rains.
Since then, the toll has climbed mostly due to the corpses recovered from the massive landslide in the mining town of Itogon where dozens are still believed buried under the mud.
“From the list I saw 59 people are still missing (at Itogon),” Ricardo Jalad, civil defence chief, told AFP. “If you add that to those already recovered it’s possible the toll could top 100.”
The typhoon, the most powerful to strike this year, also battered Hong Kong and killed four in China’s southern province of Guangdong.
Searchers at Itogon continued their grim work on Wednesday, digging with shovels and their bare hands in the vast expanse of mud that crushed dwellings used by small-scale miners.
The area was primed for disaster before Mangkhut hit, as it came on the heels of nearly a month of continuous monsoon rains that saturated the soil of the already hazardous area.
Of the hundreds digging through the debris, many were miners themselves who were looking for friends and relatives, determined to make sure they received a proper burial.
Meanwhile, the United States government is among the latest to announce assistance to those affected by the typhoon.
The US, through the United Agency for International Development (USAID), is transporting 1,000 metric tons of food to affected families affected, the US Embassy in Manila said in a statement yesterday.
USAID has also partnered with non-government organizations to provide hygiene supplies for 5,500 Filipinos who lost their homes and livelihoods in Cagayan.
US Ambassador Sung Kim expressed condolences to the typhoon victims, saying, “I would like to express again our deepest condolences for the victims of Typhoon Ompong. We commend the Government of the Philippines and local authorities for evacuating people before the storm and for their search and rescue efforts.”
“We hope that our support will provide comfort to the victims during this difficult time. We also hope to provide further assistance as needs are identified,” he added. — AFP and Camille A. Aguinaldo