By Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza, Reporter

EMERGENCY responders carried on with search and rescue operations on Tuesday amid continued rains that started days before Christmas in central and southern parts of the Philippines, according to reports from national agencies and local governments.

In a situation report as of Dec. 27, the government’s disaster council said 13 deaths have been reported, 23 were missing, and six were injured.

Of the reported deaths, seven were from Northern Mindanao, three from Bicol region, two from Eastern Visayas, and one from Zamboanga Peninsula, it said.

Twelve of those missing are in Eastern Visayas, eight in Bicol, and three in Northern Mindanao.

The rains, caused by a shear line and triggered landslides and flooding, have affected 44,282 families or 166,357 people, with 45,382 people displaced.

It forced 10,536 people or 45,337 families to take refuge in 87 evacuation centers.

The unusual heavy downpour, as described by local authorities, has also damaged 534 houses, 165 of which were totally destroyed.

Misamis Occidental, a province in Northern Mindanao, was among those badly hit by the Christmas rains as it recorded eight deaths.

Its governor, Henry S. Oaminal, Sr., said the collapse of flood control structures in the province forced 16,200 people from nine municipalities and two cities to evacuate.

“The cause for all this pain is that river flood controls collapsed — destroyed,” Mr. Oaminal told ONENews Channel, noting that the province has recorded seven deaths, six of which were caused by drowning.

The provincial government was already studying the declaration of a state of calamity, the governor said separately in an interview with ABS-CBN’s DZMM.

So far, only Gingoog City in Misamis Occidental has declared a state of calamity.

Mr. Oaminal said they did not expect the heavy flooding since the province is not prone to typhoons.

“This is the first time in Misamis Occidental. Our province is not a typhoon-prone area. There were rains before, but not this amount of rainfall which is very unusual,” he said, admitting that the province was not prepared for the disaster.

The governor said the local government was struggling to restore power and communication lines in the province.

The typhoon has caused damage to infrastructure initially estimated at P14.58 million, the disaster council said.

Damage to agriculture, meanwhile, has hit  P61.88 million, affecting 1,966 farmers.

The disaster council said state assistance to those affected by the typhoon was estimated at P5.25 million so far.

Diego Agustin Mariano, head of the joint information center of the Office of Civil Defense, said search and rescue operations (SAR) for the missing persons were being conducted by the Philippine Coast Guard, Philippine National Police, Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), among other government offices that are part of emergency response teams.

“SAR operations are continuing, especially as the weather improves, SAR for those missing will be able to move faster, most of them are fishermen so our operations are at sea,” he said in Filipino at a public news briefing.

Rhea Torres of the state weather bureau PAGASA said the weather condition in some parts of the Visayas and Mindanao may improve as early as Thursday.

“In the coming days, starting tomorrow, the shear line would affect large parts of the Visayas and Mindanao. But on Thursday, the weather may improve in some parts of Visayas and Mindanao until New Year (Jan. 1),” she told ONE News Channel.

Meanwhile, the Office of the Press Secretary said the Department of Public Workers and Highways has already deployed more than 7,000 personnel for disaster operations this year.

“Aside from personnel deployment, the DPWH also dispatched 1,711 pieces of equipment and cleared 168 road sections in multiple provinces from Luzon to Mindanao,” it said in a statement, as it touted the agency’s accomplishments for this year.