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Storm brings death and destruction in central Philippines

A mother sits with her children on fallen banana trees in Barangay San Mateo Borongan in Eastern Samar, Dec.17, 2017. (AFP)
MANILA: At least 33 people were killed and dozens still missing due to floods and landslides as tropical storm Urduja (globally known as Kai-tak) pounded central Philippines during the weekend.
Packing maximum sustained winds of 55 kilometers per hour and gustiness of up to 110 kilometers per hour, Urduja made landfall over San Policarpio in Eastern Samar Saturday afternoon.
As of Sunday, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) reports that Urduja has affected a total of 51,004 families or 221,953 persons in 492 villages, mostly in Eastern Visayas.
Of the total affected population, at least 20,389 families or 88,917 persons are currently being served in evacuation centers.
Meanwhile, information coming from the affected localities indicate the number of deaths may reach 33 while up to 30 people are still missing.
In the island province of Biliran, at least 26 people were reported killed from landslides that hit the towns of Caibiran, Almeria, Naval, and Biliran. Dozens of others are still missing as search and rescue operations continue. The province has been placed under a state of calamity.
In Ormoc City, Mayor Richard Gomez reported that three people have died due to the onslaught of Urduja but did not say the specific cause. Three people were also reported dead due to drowning in San Fernando town of Romblon and Palanas in Masbate, while one succumbed to a landslide in Labo, Camarines Sur.
Massive flooding in different parts of the Visayas likewise destroyed bridges and other infrastructure, while many areas were experienced power interruption.
From data released by the NDRRMC, 15,534 passengers were reported stranded in different ports in Southern Luzon, Bicol region, and the Visayas.
Many roads remained closed to all types of vehicles due to flooding, prompting authorities to identify alternative routes to ensure the continuity of relief distribution.
A total of 57 domestic flights have been canceled since December 13 owing to bad weather.
A response cluster meeting was held at the NDRRMC yesterday wherein officials gave an update on the assistance provided to communities affected by Urduja and ensured immediate distribution and augmentation of relief in highly affected areas.
The NDRRMC said challenges in the distribution of relief goods to the affected communities are being addressed.
Meanwhile, preparations are being made due to impending entry of another weather disturbance threatening the southern part of the Philippines.