Tropical Storm Tembin leaves dozens dead in the Philippines

Posted at 9:13 AM, Dec 23, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-23 11:13:31-05

MINDANAO — Tropical Storm Tembin was bearing down on another set of Philippine islands late Saturday, hours after unleashing devastating flooding and landslides that left at least 75 people dead on the southern island of Mindanao, authorities said.

Tembin, also known as Vinta in the Philippines, struck Friday, dropping more than 140 millimeters (5.5 inches) of rain in some parts of Mindanao, overwhelming artificial dams and sending floodwaters from mountainous areas down to communities below.

The Mindanao province of Lanao del Norte was especially hard-hit. Video there showed people holding onto ropes as they tried to cross a rushing, muddy river of floodwater that had crashed through a community.

Pictures distributed by Agence France-Presse showed rescuers wading through waist-high water as they escorted people to safer ground in the cities of Davao and Cagayan de Oro.

At least 30,000 people on Mindanao have gone to shelters, Mina Marasigan, spokeswoman of the Philippines National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, said Saturday.

At least 58 people have been reported missing, she said.

On Saturday evening, the center of Tembin was over the Sulu Sea, heading west, roughly between the western Philippine island province of Palawan and the Malaysian section of Borneo island, according to the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical Astronomical Services Administration.

Tembin’s center could hit the southernmost tip of Palawan island in the western Philippines, bringing moderate to heavy rain to a largely rural area with vast forests and palm oil plantations. Light to heavy rains also could continue to fall in the central and southern Philippines through Sunday.

The storm was packing maximum sustained winds of 100 kilometers per hour (62 mph) on Saturday evening.

Tembin is forecast to head out over the South China Sea, potentially getting close to Vietnam’s southeastern coast by Monday.

Tembin is the Philippines’ second deadly tropical storm this month. Last weekend, a storm known there as Urduja struck the central Visayas region, killing at least 27 people.

4-year-old among those killed

Most of the deaths resulting from Tembin on Mindanao were in Lanao del Norte province, with additional ones elsewhere on the island, including Payao and Lanao del Sur, CNN Philippines reported.

“(When) these artificial dams were not able to withstand the pressure anymore, flash floods came down from the mountains,” said Marasigan, the emergency council spokeswoman.

Among the dead were a 4-year-old who was trapped in a landslide in Payao and a prisoner who was killed when the roof of a jail collapsed from strong winds and rains in Butuan City, CNN Philippines reported, citing the Philippine Red Cross.

Tembin struck more than a week after the Philippine government voted to extend martial law on Mindanao following a year in which Islamic militants shocked the nation in taking — and holding for several months — pockets of a Muslim-majority city there.