MANILA - Tens of thousands have been forced from their homes by a tropical storm that battered southern Philippines leaving at least 182 dead, police and aid agencies said Sunday.
Tropical Storm Vinta (international name: Tembin), which triggered flash floods and mudslides as it lashed the nation's second-largest island of Mindanao, has displaced more than 70,000 people, said the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
"People left everything behind when they fled for their lives," the IFRC's Philippines operations and programs manager Patrick Elliott said in a statement.
The Philippines is pummeled by 20 major storms each year on average, many of them deadly. But Mindanao, home to 20 million people, is rarely hit.
Police said 153 people were still missing and more than 40,000 had fled to evacuation centers as Vinta, which slammed into the island on Friday, continued westwards.
Police, soldiers and volunteers used shovels to dig through mud and debris as they searched for bodies in the village of Dalama on Saturday.
"The river rose and most of the homes were swept away. The village is no longer there," police officer Gerry Parami told AFP by telephone from nearby Tubod town in Lanao del Norte, one of the provinces hardest hit by Vinta.
Local police said 127 people have been confirmed dead in the province, with 72 missing, as rescuers pulled dozens of bodies from the swollen Salog River near the town of Sapad.
The bodies had been swept downriver from a flooded town upstream called Salvador, Rando Salvacion, the Sapad town police chief, told AFP. Authorities in Salvador said other bodies were retrieved upstream.
"The people received ample warnings. But as we are rarely hit by typhoons, people living near rivers did not take them seriously," Salvador police chief Wilson Mislores told AFP.
'UNFORTUNATE' SO NEAR CHRISTMAS
The death toll for Mindanao's Zamboanga peninsula also rose to 28, and police said 81 people were missing after mud and rocks swept down coastal communities in Sibuco and other fishing towns.
Landslides had blocked rescue and relief convoys to the impoverished region, officials said Saturday.
One man was killed by a crocodile while he was securing his boat as the storm closed in this week on the western island of Palawan, a police report said Saturday.
The storm hit Balabac, a fishing island of 40,000 people in western Philippines, on Saturday afternoon with gusts of 145 kms an hour, the state weather service said.
Vinta struck less than a week after Tropical Storm Urduja (international name: Kai-Tak) left 54 dead and 24 missing in central Philippines, straining the disaster-prone nation's resources.
"It is unfortunate that another tropical cyclone... made its presence felt so near Christmas," Harry Roque, President Rodrigo Duterte's spokesperson, said in a statement.
Roque vowed continued government aid to the affected communities, but Romina Marasigan, spokesperson for the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, described the situation as "challenging."
The deadliest typhoon to hit the country was Haiyan, which killed thousands and destroyed entire towns in heavily populated areas of central Philippines in November 2013.