The death toll from recent floods and landslides across the disaster-prone Philippines has risen to 51, officials said Monday, as authorities distribute food packs to the hardest hit communities.
The number of fatalities could rise further as rescuers search for 19 people still missing more than a week after heavy rain pounded central and southern regions over the Christmas weekend, according to the national disaster agency.
Bad weather struck as the Catholic-majority nation of 110 million people prepared for a long Christmas holiday.
More than 270,000 people had to seek emergency shelter as downpours inundated rural villages, left more than 4,500 houses damaged or destroyed, and wiped out over 7,000 hectares (17,300 acres) of crops.
Instead of celebrating with loved ones, thousands of families found themselves cleaning up their dwellings and shops after the floodwaters subsided.
Most of the fatalities have been in the province of Misamis Occidental, on the southern island of Mindanao, where 19 people died from drowning or rain-induced landslides.
The Philippines is ranked among the most vulnerable nations to the impacts of climate change, and scientists have warned that storms are becoming more powerful as the world gets warmer.
Caritas Philippines, the social action arm of the Catholic Church in the country, has earlier appealed for donations for victims of the disaster.
The Catholic charity said its relief efforts are underway in partnership with the Archdiocese of Ozamis’ social action center.
“Caritas Philippines is now providing assistance to communities affected by the flooding in Misamis Occidental due to heavy rains in the area,” the organization said in a social media post.
Immediately responding to the needs of the victims, the archdiocese’s parishes provided shelter for those whose houses have been washed out or damaged by the flood.
Caritas said several parishes have also welcomed evacuees from high risk areas and given them food packages, potable water, hygiene kits, and clothing, among others.
Archbishop Martin Jumoad of Ozamis earlier asked for prayers and help for the people affected by the calamity. – with a report from AFP
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