Multiple factors behind rising Usman death toll, say officials

Policemen and rescuers stand near the body of a drowning
victim during the onslaught of tropical depression Usman in
Oriental Mindoro, Tuesday. Dennis Datu, ABS-CBN

MANILA — A confluence of factors led to the 126 deaths caused
by a storm that devastated the country shortly after Christmas,
officials said Sunday.

The storm hit central and eastern Philippine islands on
December 29 and caused massive flooding and landslides. More
than 100 people died in Bicol region, regional disaster
officials said.
While Bicol is often hit by deadly typhoons, many people failed
to take necessary precautions because the storm was not strong
enough to be rated as a typhoon under the government’s storm
alert system, according to civil defense officials.

Some residents were also reluctant to leave their homes during
the Christmas holidays, said national disaster agency spokesman
Edgar Posadas.

In 2 days alone, however, Usman poured 84 percent worth of a
month’s worth of rainfall in Bicol, he told radio DZMM.

The rains, he said, spawned floods as high as 2 storeys in some
areas, which is an unusual occurrence in the mountainous

Posadas maintained local governments were given “enough
information” ahead of the typhoon’s onslaught and that 2,700
floods prone areas were identified by authorities as early as
December 26.

“Hindi rin ito ang panahon ng pagtuturuan… Kagagaling lang
natin sa Bicol, marami pang kailangan gawin,” the official

“Patuloy pa ang ating search, rescue and retrieval operations
na ginagawa natin,” he added.

(This is not the time for pointing fingers. We’ve just visited
Bicol and a lot still needs to be done. Our search, rescue and
retrieval operations are still ongoing.)

The death toll was likely to climb further with 26 people still
missing, Posadas said.

Some 150,000 individuals were displaced by the storm and 75
were injured, according to the national disaster agency.

President Rodrigo Duterte visited the storm-hit areas on Friday
and urged officials to build evacuation centers instead of
using schools as shelters for the displaced.

About 20 typhoons and storms batter the Philippines each year,
killing hundreds of people.

The deadliest in recent years was Super Typhoon Haiyan which
left more than 7,360 people dead or missing across the central
Philippines in 2013. — With a report from Agence

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