Manila, Philippines Driving rain on the heels of back-to-back storms triggered dozens of landslides across the northern Philippines on Friday, burying more than 160 people, washing away villages and leaving almost an entire province under water.
The latest deluge brought the death toll to nearly 500 from the Philippines’ worst flooding in 40 years after storms started pounding the country’s north on Sept. 26.
More than 160 people were killed in landslides in Benguet and Mountain Province along the Cordillera mountain range, about 125 miles north of Manila, officials said. Residents were jolted awake by the rumbling sound of mudslides and floodwaters tearing apart the saturated soil and washing away homes.
Rescuers wading through sloshy mud from nearby Bagiuo city retrieved at least 162 bodies, bringing the total deaths in the two provinces since Typhoon Parma struck on Saturday to 174, said regional disaster relief officer Rex Manuel. At least 48 others were missing and 120 were pulled out alive.
Nearly the entire village of Kibungan in Benguet was buried under tons of mud and debris, Manuel said. Some 45 bodies were recovered so far. Rescuers used pulleys and cables to transport the dead they retrieved from piles of rubble.
TV footage showed the bodies arriving in black bags in a hall in Baguio, where relatives wept after recognizing their loved ones.
“There was a sudden rumble above us, and then the houses at the bottom were gone, including them,” said Melody Coronel, pointing to the relatives she found among the dead.
In Mountain Province, 15 bodies were retrieved while 20 people were missing from a village in Tadian township, Manuel said.
Landslides blocked the roads to the mountain city of Baguio, where 48 people died, in the heart of the Cordillera region. The only way to reach the isolated, mountain communities was by foot, and military helicopters could not fly yet because of fog and rain, said Lt. Col. Ernesto Torres of the government’s disaster-relief agency.