Philippines floods force tens of thousands to flee homes



Christmas Day floods in the Philippines forced the evacuation of nearly 46 000 people from their homes, civil defence officials said on Monday.

8 dead, 19 missing

Eight people were killed and 19 others were missing after a week’s worth of heavy seasonal rain in the southern and eastern regions of the country, they said in an updated report.

The flooding hit the south on Sunday, as the disaster dampened celebrations on the mainly Catholic nation’s most important holiday.

“The waters rose above the chest in some areas, but today the rains have ceased,” civil defence worker Robinson Lacre told AFP by phone from Gingoog city, which accounted for 33 000 of the 45 700 people evacuated from their homes.

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The coastguard said it rescued members of more than two dozen families in the southern city of Ozamiz and nearby Clarin town at the height of the flooding.

Photos released by the coastguard showed its orange-clad rescuers cradling toddlers plucked from homes at nighttime in waist-deep floodwaters.

Four deaths – three from drowning – were reported in the nearby southern towns of Jimenez and Tudela.

Fishing boat sinks

The coastguard also said strong winds and big waves sank a fishing boat on Christmas Day off the coast of the central island of Leyte. Two crew members were killed, while six others were rescued.

Two others, including a baby girl, drowned in the eastern towns of Libmanan and Tinambac after they were hit by floods several days before Christmas, the civil defence office said.

Nineteen people remain missing, most of them subsistence fishermen from the country’s Pacific seaboard who put to sea despite rough conditions days before Christmas.

The weather turned bad as the disaster-prone nation of 110 million people prepared for a long Christmas holiday.

Millions of people travel to their hometowns for family reunions during this period.

The Philippines is ranked among the most vulnerable nations to the impacts of climate change.

Scientists have warned that storms are becoming more powerful as the world gets warmer.

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