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‘Usman’ death toll reaches 126, rain-induced landslides top cause

The death toll from tropical storm “Usman,” which struck shortly after Christmas, rose to 126, authorities said Sunday, adding that landslides caused by torrential rain were the top cause.

The storm hit central and eastern Philippine islands on Dec. 29 and caused massive flooding and landslides. More than 100 people died in the mountainous Bicol region southeast of Manila, regional disaster officials said.

While the Bicol region is often hit by deadly typhoons, many people failed to take necessary precautions because the storm was not strong enough to be rated as a typhoon under the government’s storm alert system, civil defense officials said.

READ: Floods, landslides kill 51

Officials also said that many residents were reluctant to leave their homes during the Christmas holidays.

“In two days alone, Usman poured more than a month’s worth of rainfall in the Bicol region,” national disaster agency spokesman Edgar Posadas said.

“Our search and retrieval operations are ongoing but the sticky mud and the unstable soil are a challenge.”

The death toll was likely to climb further with 26 people still missing, Posadas added.

More than 152,000 people were displaced by the storm and 75 were injured, according to the national disaster agency.

READ: ‘Usman’ deaths mounting; crop losses at P342m

President Rodrigo Duterte visited the storm-hit areas on Friday and urged officials to build evacuation centers instead of using schools as shelters for the displaced.

On Sunday, the weather bureau said the tail-end of a cold front affecting eastern Mindanao and the northeast monsoon affecting Luzon and Visayas will continue to bring rain.

Northern Mindanao and Caraga will have cloudy skies with scattered rain showers and thunderstorms due to the two weather systems affecting these areas, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said in its latest report.

The northeast monsoon will bring cloudy skies with light to moderate rains over Visayas, and partly cloudy to cloudy skies with isolated light rains over Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon.

The rest of Mindanao will experience partly cloudy to cloudy skies with isolated light rains caused by localized thunderstorms.

Meanwhile, strong winds will blow over the eastern part of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. Coastal waters along these areas will be rough.

Elsewhere, PAGASA said winds will be moderate to strong with moderate to rough seas.

READ: Duterte wants to construct durable evacuation centers

Topics: Usman , Philippine islands , Bicol , Rodrigo Duterte , Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration , Edgar Posadas
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