As the Philippines recovers from Category 5 Super Typhoon Mangkhut, police estimated the first unofficial death toll at about 66, reported the New York Times. The number is expected to rise as emergency workers continue to recover bodies.
Known locally as Ompong, the typhoon made landfall on September 14 in the Philippines.
Over 40 bodies were found following a landslide in a remote town for gold miners in Itogon in the northern island of Luzon, with dozens more missing and presumed dead, said the Guardian. Families, including children, had taken shelter in a bunkhouse converted to a chapel when part of the mountain collapsed into the building.
Nearly 300 rescuers worked with bare hands and shovels to find the bodies. Along with police and military, geologists and engineers provided support. Muddy ground and damaged roads prevented the use of heavy machinery or other technology to aid in the process.
Relatives gathered around the site, hoping to find any survivors.
“I am 99% sure they are dead,” said Victorio Palangdan, mayor of Itogon.
The workers were allegedly residing illegally in the area after the mine was closed in the 1990s. While mayor Palandgan claims the workers had permission to work in the area, the mine company, Benguet Corp., denied any knowledge of the workers, the New York Times reported.
Mudslides throughout the country caused more damage along with wind and rain, affecting about 5.7 million people, estimates the Guardian. Damage assessments are ongoing, but it may be weeks until a full analysis is complete.
Power outages in Manila, the capital, resulted in loss of communication for millions.
According to the Telegraph, the majority of people affected by the typhoon in the Philippines reside in poverty. About 1.4 million are farmers, with an additional 100,000 fishermen. With crops flooded only weeks before harvest season, these communities may continue to suffer long after the typhoon has passed with rebuilding efforts midst food and water shortages.
Super Typhoon Haiyan, also known as Yolanda, had hit the Philippines in 2013 and displaced nearly 4 million people and resulted in 6,000 deaths, CNN reported. While this typhoon did not cause nearly as much damage, it’s power was notable.
Rescuers search for survivors through mud of landslide after Typhoon Mangkhut lashes the Philippines with strong winds and heavy rain, leaving at least 64 people dead. https://t.co/BaPsfucIIi pic.twitter.com/sh3inDZDxe
— ABC News (@ABC) September 17, 2018
With sustaining winds as high as 170 miles per hour, typhoon Mangkhut was 75 miles higher than Hurricane Florence, reported the Wall Street Journal. Totaling a width of about 550 miles, it was the most powerful storm of 2018.
Mangkhut ripped across Southeast Asia, slamming the Philippines, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau.
The weakened storm continued into China, where it killed four people.
Macau reported 40 injured and no fatalities. Security secretary Wong Sio-Chak attributed the lack of damage to better preparation than previous years, according to Macau Business.