Philippines: Rescue efforts under way as Mangkhut toll rises

Rescue efforts are under way in the northern Philippines as authorities have raised the death toll of Typhoon Mangkhut to 65. 

Philippines National Police said that as of Monday, a further 43 people remained missing and 64 were wounded as a result of the world’s strongest storm of this year. 

All but one of the missing are in the Cordillera Administrative Region, which saw a number of landslides. 

Philippine police earlier said that at least 40 people, the majority of them gold miners, were feared to have been trapped when part of a mountain slope collapsed on miners’ barracks in a remote village of Itogon town in Benguet province. 

Seven bodies were dug out there on Sunday with rescue work resuming on Monday morning. 

The Philippine government on Monday ordered a stop to all illegal mining in six mountainous northern provinces in hopes of preventing more tragedies. 

In a press conference, Environmental Secretary Roy Cimatu said the army and police would be deployed to enforce the ban. 

Typhoon Mangkhut, locally named Ompong, made landfall on Luzon Island in northern Philippines on Saturday.

On Monday morning, it weakened to a tropical storm after battering Hong Kong and parts of southern China on Sunday. 

Chinese state TV on Monday said that four were killed in China as a result of Mangkhut. Millions were evacuated.

Damage revealed slowly

Reporting from Itogon, Al Jazeera’s Jamela Alindogan said the mayor has said he fears the death toll could rise.

“There have been reports that there are pockets of landslides in different parts of this village and we were told that the entire devastation in this community has not yet been grasped,” she said. 

“There has been a movement of rescuers doing manual digging and that is because bringing in machines to help with it is very difficult.” 

Livelihoods destroyed

Homes and farmlands were left destroyed in rural communities in Luzon’s northeastern Cagayan province, where the typhoon first came to shore.

One of the towns which bore the brunt of the destruction was Baggao.   

Rescue workers clear a road of debris and toppled electric posts as they try to reach Baggao [Ted Aljibe/AFP]

A quarter of people in the region live in poverty and get by on less than $2 a day.

“There is significant destruction of property and root crops,” General Emmanuel Salamat of the Philippine Marines told Al Jazeera. 

Cafe owner Julie Rosales had only her small cafeteria to support her family, but now it is gone. 

“It really hurts us, we don’t know where to begin,” she said.

“Everything happened so fast and now my business is gone.”

Many in Baggao defied a forced evacuation order by the government to protect their livelihoods. 

“Our house was blown away. We were flooded,” 55-year-old Diday Llorente told AFP news agency. 

“But we did not evacuate because we didn’t want to leave our carabao [water buffalo] and livestock.” 

SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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