Torrential rains in the Central Philippine Islands of Leyte and Mindinao caused a series of mudslides, beginning Friday night, in which an estimated 200 people have reportedly lost their lives. Authorities also fear another tragedy in the region as a ferry with more than 70 people on board is missing in the western Philippines.
According to the BBC most of the victims were asleep when torrents of mud swept down on dozens of homes. At least 77 bodies have been recovered. Poor road and weather conditions have hampered efforts by rescuers to get into some of the worst-affected areas. Another 120 persons are reported missing.
The Philippines Coast Guard reported that the 63-ton ferry Piary left on Saturday from a small island in the Sulu Sea, and was heading for Palawan island. But it vanished on Sunday after rough seas smashed a hole in its side.
Local officials have indicated that illegal logging activities in the region may have caused the landslides. Cutting down trees from the slopes above settlements had loosened the soil, which gave way following the rainstorms.
The BBC said “the municipalities of San Francisco, Liloan and Maasin in southern Leyte have been particularly badly hit, while other casualties were reported in the Agusan and Surigao areas of neighbouring Mindanao island.” Rescuers have been using shovels and iron bars to dig survivors out of the debris.
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