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MANILA — Rescue workers battled intermittent heavy rain to reach many people still missing Wednesday, three days after Tropical Storm Megi pummeled the country, causing widespread landslides and flooding in the central Philippines.
By noon Thursday, 123 deaths had been confirmed. Hardest hit was the city of Baybay in central Leyte Province, where landslides buried a remote community. Eighty-six people were known to have died there, local officials said.
Mark Timbal, a spokesman for the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, said local officials in Leyte had pre-emptively evacuated many residents in Baybay into areas that were safe — or so they thought.
“The landslide reached beyond the hazard-prone areas,” Mr. Timbal said in Manila on Wednesday. “Some of the residents had evacuated there and did not expect the landslide to reach that location.”
“We did not foresee the devastation brought about by this landslide,” he added.
While the storm had moved out of the Philippines, intermittent rains had continued, hampering search and rescue efforts.
Baybay’s mayor, Jose Carlos Cari, said on Wednesday that he feared the casualty figures could rise. “We are still searching for many people missing,” he said. “Our responders are wading through mud.”
The nearby town of Abuyog was also hit by a landslide. Floodwaters had receded, but officials said nearly 80 percent of one village there had been wiped out. Thirty-one deaths had been confirmed as of Thursday.
“After the landslide, the remaining 20 percent of houses along the coast were swamped by a storm surge,” said Lemuel Gin Traya, Abuyog’s mayor. “It was one huge wave.”
All in all, about nine regions and an estimated 139,000 people in the Philippines’ eastern seaboard were affected, the disaster relief agency in Manila said.
The Philippines sits on the so-called typhoon belt, and endures an estimated 20 storms a year, some devastating.
In December, about 400 people were killed when Typhoon Rai pummeled the central region. And in November 2013, Typhoon Haiyan slammed the central Philippines, killing thousands.