More Than 200 Dead And 70,000 Homeless After Tropical Storm Tembin Strengthens Into Typhoon

Aclimah Disumala AP Images

While so many are watching North American snowstorms and waiting on a white Christmas– the South Philippines is experiencing a deadly typhoon that’s claimed the lives of over 200 people and driven more than 70,000 from their homes.

People continue to search for survivors after heavy rains created dangerous conditions, resulting in landslides that wiped away entire communities. The Provinces of Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur located on the Zamboanga Peninsula sustained some of the most extensive damage as Tropical Storm Tembin grew in strength, turning into a monstrous typhoon over the Sulu Sea.

The typhoon made landfall with a sustained wind speed of over 65mph, including gusts that could exceed 90mph. These conditions combined with a huge amount of rainfall created an absolute disaster for anyone in its path.

While the majority of the casualties occurred Friday on the southern island of Mindanao, the sudden rainfall has created conditions that are making further rescue attempts as perilous for the emergency responders as they are for those trapped in flooded areas. The fishing village of Anungan is the current focus of a search party after over thirty people were suddenly overtaken by flood waters. Only five of those bodies have been recovered so far.

Bong Edding, Mayor of Sibuco of the Zamboanga del Norte Province, has blamed logging for many of the dangers being posed by unfettered rainfall. Without the trees and with the loss of the soil integrity, there simply isn’t enough of a barrier to slow the water. This creates the perfect conditions for mudslides and dangerous uninhibited flash floods.

Edding describes the horrific scene.

“The floodwaters from the mountain came down so fast and swept away people and houses. It’s really sad because Christmas is just a few days away, but these things happen beyond our control.”

Philippines bridge in the Zamboanga Province destroyed by typhoon.
Bridge in the Zamboanga Province destroyed by flood waters on 12/24/2017 in the Philippines.Featured image credit: Daisy Barimbao AP Images

According to the Guardian, this has already caused Edding to call for a stop to the logging practices in the mountains near Anungan. He also pointed out that all means of communication have been demolished, creating even more of an obstacle in the mass rescue attempts.

Local authorities in Northern Mindanao are reporting at least 135 dead and at least 72 people missing as floodwaters flew down the side of a mountain wiping away fishing communities, and another 47 dead in Sibuco and Salug of the Zamboanga Peninsula– with just as many individuals reported missing in these areas.

Every year, the Philippines is ravaged by roughly 20-25 typhoons that cause catastrophic damage with little time for many of the poorest communities to recover. More fatalities are expected as rescue attempts unearth new and devastating swaths of destruction cut by this latest typhoon.