Death toll from Philippine storm, landslides climbs to 126

The storm hit central and eastern Philippine islands on December 29 and caused massive flooding and landslides. (AFP)
Updated 06 January 2019

Death toll from Philippine storm, landslides climbs to 126

  • Officials also said that many residents were reluctant to leave their homes during the Christmas holidays
  • About 20 typhoons and storms batter the Philippines each year, killing hundreds of people

MANILA: The death toll from a storm that devastated the Philippines shortly after Christmas rose to 126, authorities said Sunday, adding landslides caused by torrential rain were the top cause.
The storm hit central and eastern Philippine islands on December 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, according to civil defense officials.
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, using the local name for the storm which had weakened into a low-pressure area.
“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.
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.
About 20 typhoons and storms batter the Philippines each year, killing hundreds of people.
The deadliest in recent years was Super Typhoon Haiyan, which left more than 7,360 people dead or missing across the central Philippines in 2013.


FBI: Saudi shooter believed to have acted alone in US Navy base attack

Updated 09 December 2019

FBI: Saudi shooter believed to have acted alone in US Navy base attack

  • Special agent Rachel Rojas thanked Saudi Arabia for its cooperation in the investigation
  • Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani was shot dead after he opened fire and killed three people at the base in Florida

PENSACOLA: Investigators believe a Saudi Air Force lieutenant acted alone on Friday when he killed three people and wounded eight at a US Navy base in Pensacola, Florida before being fatally shot by police, the FBI said on Sunday.
Rachel Rojas, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Jacksonville office, said the shooter used a Glock model 45 9mm handgun that he had purchased legally in Florida.
“We currently assess there was one gunman who perpetrated this attack and no arrests have been made in this case,” Rojas, the lead investigator on the case, said at a news conference.
“We are looking very hard at uncovering his motive and I would ask for patience so we can get this right,” she said.
Authorities confirmed the suspect was a member of the Royal Saudi Air Force who was on the base as part of a US Navy training program designed to foster links with foreign allies.
The FBI identified him as Second Lt. Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, 21.
A sheriff’s deputy fatally shot the gunman, authorities said, ending the second deadly attack at a US military base within a week. Within hours, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman had called US President Donald Trump to extend his condolences and pledge the Kingdom’s support in the investigation.
Rojas said there were several Saudi students who were close to the shooter and are cooperating with investigators.
“Their Saudi commanding officer has restricted them to base, and the Saudi government has pledged to fully cooperate with our investigation,” she said. “I thank the kingdom for their pledge of full and complete cooperation.”

Meanwhile, a second victim was identified as Airman Mohammed Sameh Haitham, 19, of St. Petersburg, Florida, who joined the Navy after graduating from high school last year, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
Haitham's mother, Evelyn Brady, herself a Navy veteran, said the commander of her son's school called her and told her Haitham had tried to stop the shooter.