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‘Unprecedented’ floods in Bohol as Seniang kills 11

MANILA, Philippines – Two days of heavy flooding and landslides killed 11 people as tropical storm Seniang (Jangmi) crossed the Visayas on Tuesday, December 30, with water in some areas "neck deep," officials said.

Seniang, which was forecast to bring up to 15 millimeters (0.6 inches) of rain per hour, barreled through fishing and tourist areas on Tuesday, with about 1,700 people being evacuated ahead of its arrival.

Bohol is among the provinces hardest hit by floods, and is now under a state of calamity.

Five people were killed after a landslide buried a house in Tanauan town, Leyte province, the region's civil defense spokeswoman Blanche Gobenciong told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

"We are focused on floods and landslides because, while the storm's winds are weak, it will bring heavy rain," national civil defense chief Alexander Pama told DZMM radio.

An 8-year-old girl drowned after raging floodwaters washed away her family's shanty home in the coastal town of Ronda in Cebu province, regional civil defense officer Allen Cabaron told AFP, adding that 6 of the girl's housemates are missing.

Two teenage boys, meanwhile, died from electrocution while wading through floodwaters in Loon in Bohol province, Cabaron added.

Rivers burst their banks, covering roads and highways in knee-deep floods that washed out bridges and stalled vehicles, Cabaron said, adding that floods in some areas were "neck-deep.”

‘Unprecedented flooding in Bohol’

In an interview on ANC, Bohol Governor Edgar Chatto said heavy flooding hit Bohol, with the municipalities of Loboc and Maribojoc the focus of rescue and relief efforts. 

“The water of the river rose to heights that are unprecedented. It’s been a long time since the [Loboc] river rose to this level, and maybe also [with] the high tide compounding the problem, the water was not able to exit the river. We are now sending choppers to towns to bring food items with the local disaster council,” Chatto said. 

While residents were ordered to evacuate, Chatto said they did not expect the damage from the storm to be this devastating. “This is an unprecedented level. It has never happened for quite some time.”

The governor added that the provincial government needs additional rubber boats.

The deluge was expected to subside in Bohol and Cebu later Tuesday, but flooding was possible on Negros island further west, which is in the storm's path, he said.

On Monday, at least 3 people were killed after Seniang slammed into the country's mountainous southeastern region, triggering floods and landslides.

Up to 14,000 people evacuated in Surigao del Sur, where Seniang first hit on Monday, will be sent home on Tuesday as floodwaters recede, Governor Johnny Pimentel told AFP.

Ten flights to and from the affected areas on Tuesday were cancelled, the Manila airport authority said in a statement.

Seniang will be out of the central region after midnight Wednesday before brushing the southern tip of Palawan island on its way out of the country on Thursday, according to the state-run weather bureau.

The Philippines is battered by about 20 storms every year, many of them deadly.

This month, Typhoon Ruby (Hagupit) left 18 people dead after it lashed central provinces with 210-kilometer (130 miles) per hour winds.

Last year Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), the strongest ever to hit the country, left 7,350 people dead or missing in the same region as it stirred up tsunami-like waves, wiping out entire towns. – with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com