Grim search for typhoon landslide victims as Philippines toll climbs

Grim search for typhoon landslide victims as Philippines toll climbs

rescuers dig for survivors
Rescuers carry a body bag containing the body retrieved from landslide site where dozens of residents are believed to have been buried during heavy rains at the height of Typhoon Mangkhut in Itogon town, Benguet province north of Manila on Sep 18, 2018. (Photo: TED ALJIBE / AFP)

ITOGON, Philippines: Hundreds of Philippine rescuers used shovels and their bare hands Tuesday (Sep 18) to sift through a massive landslide where dozens are feared dead in the region worst-hit by deadly Typhoon Mangkhut, as the storm's toll hit 74.

The storm, 2018's most powerful, smashed homes and flooded key agricultural regions in the northern Philippines before battering Hong Kong and southern China with fierce winds and heavy rain.

rescuers look for survivors
Rescuers carry a body bag containing the body retrieved from landslide site where dozens of residents are believed to have been buried during heavy rains at the height of Typhoon Mangkhut in Itogon town, Benguet province north of Manila on Sep 18, 2018. (Photo: TED ALJIBE / AFP)

Hong Kong was still struggling to get back on its feet on Tuesday with a massive clean-up operation to clear broken trees, repair torn-up roads and fix damaged power lines.

A damaged taxi under a fallen tree in the aftermath of Typhoon Mangkhut in Hong Kong
A damaged taxi under a fallen tree in the aftermath of Typhoon Mangkhut in Hong Kong AFP/Mark RALSTON

Typhoon Mangkhut stripped traditional bamboo scaffolding from constructions sites across Hong Kong
Typhoon Mangkhut stripped traditional bamboo scaffolding from constructions sites across Hong Kong AFP/Anthony WALLACE

The violent typhoon killed four in China's southern province of Guangdong and the toll climbed on Tuesday to 74 on the Philippines' northern Luzon island according to police, with that number expected to rise.

Up to 40 people are still feared buried in the landslide in Itogon, unleashed Saturday as the typhoon stalled over the area and dumped a month's worth of rain in a matter of hours.

"While I said there is a 99-per cent chance that all of them are dead, there is still that one-per cent chance," local Mayor Victorio Palangdan told AFP.

"The rescue effort will continue until the president orders us to stop," he said.

Because the slide destroyed roads, authorities have been unable to bring heavy equipment into the area to accelerate the search. As a result the teams were using human chains to extract debris.

The area was primed for disaster before Mangkhut hit, as it came on the heels of nearly a month of continuous monsoon rains that left the already hazardous area soggy and dangerously loose.

Almost all the storm's victims were killed in dozens of landslides unleashed along the Cordillera mountain range, a key gold mining area.

"KING OF STORMS"

Many of those buried in Itogon were small-scale gold miners and their families who took refuge in a building abandoned by large mining firm.

The Philippines has a poor record of regulating mining, with tunnel collapses and landslides in recent years regularly killing people in other gold-rush areas.

Tearful families surrounded a whiteboard bearing names of the dead and missing as others inspected recovered bodies in an attempt to identify their loved ones.

"We found peace that his body has been found. We can't really do anything, it was an accident. Maybe this is God's will," Teresa Buucan told AFP after her nephew's corpse was pulled from the debris.

Across northern Luzon, which produces much of the nation's rice and corn, farms were under muddy floodwater. Farmers were seeing what of their crops could be saved, however, it appears the losses will total more than US$100 million.

A view of landslide caused at the height of Typhoon Mangkhut that buried people at a mining camp in
A view of landslide caused at the height of Typhoon Mangkhut that buried people at a mining camp in Itogon, Benguet in the Philippines, September 16, 2018. REUTERS/Harley Palangchao

Torrential rains from the super typhoon flooded rice fields in the Philippines' agricultural
Torrential rains from the super typhoon flooded rice fields in the Philippines' agricultural north (Photo: AFP/TED ALJIBE)

That could add to the Philippines' inflation woes and worsen a spike in rice prices that has hit hard for the nearly quarter of the nation's population that survives on less than US$2 a day.

In Hong Kong, which was whacked with gusts of more than 230 kilometres per hour that sent buildings swaying and water surging into homes and shopping malls, workers were still busy cleaning up the damage.

After a day of transport chaos in the immediate aftermath of the storm, schools were closed for a second day as authorities worked to restore rail and bus services.

At the height of the deluge, windows in tower blocks and skyscrapers were smashed as people cowered inside, and some roads were waist-deep in water.

The government of the high-rise city described the damage as "severe and extensive" with more than 300 people injured.

A view of debris and destroyed houses at the site of a landslide at a mining camp in Itogon
A view of debris and destroyed houses at the site of a landslide, after super typhoon Mangkhut hit the country, at a mining camp in Itogon, Benguet, Philippines September 17, 2018. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

The storm made landfall in mainland China late Sunday, killing four in Guangdong including three hit by falling trees.

Authorities there had evacuated more than three million people and ordered tens of thousands of fishing boats back to port before the arrival of what Chinese media dubbed the "King of Storms".

Source: AFP/aa

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