At least 31 people have been killed in flash floods and landslides triggered by heavy rains in southern Philippines, officials said on Friday.
The torrential rains were caused by tropical storm Nalgae that hit the Philippine archipelago in the country’s south.
Disaster officials said thousands of people have been evacuated from the path of the storm, which could possibly make landfall on Friday night in Samar province in central Philippines.
The storm included winds of 75 km/hr (47 mph), which forced authorities to cancel flights just as thousands of people were planning to travel to their home towns to observe All Souls Day.
Schools and several ports were also shut down.
Naguib Sinarimbo, interior minister of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Mindanao (BARMM), said: “There were preparations made but unfortunately, the rainfall was more than what people had expected.”
He added that most of the victims were swept away by floodwaters and drowned or were hit by debris-filled mudslides in three towns in hard-hit Maguindanao province.
“The amount of rainwater that came down overnight was unusually (heavy) and flowed down mountainsides and swelled rivers,” he was quoted as saying to the Associated Press.
“I hope the casualty numbers won’t rise further but there are still a few communities we haven’t reached.”
Rains had eased on Friday morning, causing floods to start to recede in several towns.
The minister cited local government reports as saying that 26 of the deceased died by drowning in Maguindanao’s coastal towns of Datu Odin Sinsuat and Datu Blah Sinsuat and five others died in Upi town.
In addition, at least nine people have been reported missing in Datu Blah Sinsuat and other areas.
Nalgae is the 16th storm to hit the Philippines this year.
Located on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, the Philippines is prone to typhoons and storms and is one of the most disaster-prone regions in the world.
Additional reporting by agencies