8 dead, several missing as storm hits southern Philippines

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – At least 8 people were killed and several others were missing after a tropical storm struck the southern Philippines Friday, December 22, unleashing floods and landslides across a region of 20 million people, officials said.

Tropical Storm Vinta (Tembin) hit the east coast of Mindanao, the archipelago nation's second-largest island, before dawn with gusts of 125 kilometers an hour bringing torrential rain, the state weather office said.

"We forced hundreds of people to evacuate some villages, but the water rose swiftly and our rescuers cannot reach other areas," civil defense officer Saripada Pacasum of Lanao del Sur province, one of the hardest-hit areas, told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

The Philippines lies on the Pacific typhoon belt and endures an average of 20 typhoons and storms each year, but Mindanao is rarely hit by these cyclones.

Earlier on Friday, Pacasum reported that a small landslide buried several houses in the town of Tugaya and killed two children, with 5 other people missing and believed trapped beneath the rubble. 

By Friday evening, the Lanao del Norte disaster risk reduction council said 7 had died in 3 towns in the province

Another landslide buried 4 houses in the city of Valencia, killing an elderly woman, said the city's civil defense officer Junrey Vallejo.

Rescuers used heavy machinery to dig in search of a girl who remained missing as of Friday afternoon, he told AFP.

Police and civil defense officials reported heavy flooding in several Mindanao towns and cities as Tembin weakened and swiftly moved across the region.

Photos shared by rescuers on social media showed rampaging, mud-brown floodwaters sweeping down a highway in Lanao del Sur province, engulfing houses and a van, and people seeking refuge on the upper floors of their homes.

Pacasum, the provincial civil defense officer, said among the flooded areas was the city of Marawi, recovering from 5 months of fighting between troops and Islamic militants that left more than 1,100 people dead earlier this year.

Police also reported widespread flooding in Cagayan de Oro, one of Mindanao's largest cities.

Electricity was cut across large swathes of the island.

Tembin struck less than a week after Tropical Storm Urduja (Kai-Tak) devastated the central Philippines, leaving more than 54 dead and 24 missing. – Rappler.com