One dead, thousands flee as storm pounds Philippines

One dead, thousands flee as storm pounds Philippines
A boy drowned and tens of thousands were driven from their homes by floods as Tropical Storm Kai-Tak pounded the eastern Philippines on Saturday, cutting off power and triggering landslides, officials said.

Kai-Tak, packing gusts of up to 110 kilometres (62 miles) an hour, hit the country's third-largest island Samar in the afternoon and was forecast to slice across the rest of the central Philippines over the weekend, the state weather service said.

Military trucks drove through rising floodwaters on Samar and nearby Leyte island to rescue trapped residents, with more than 38,000 people now in evacuation centres, local officials said.

A two-year-old boy drowned in the Leyte town of Mahaplag, the civil defence office in the region said.

A spokeswoman for the national government's National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council told AFP it is trying to confirm reports of two other deaths from landslides and floods.

Samar and Leyte, with a combined population of about 4.5 million, had borne the brunt of Super Typhoon Haiyan four years ago, which left more than 7,350 people dead or missing.

Bus driver Felix Villaseran, his wife and four children hunkered down in their two-storey house in the Leyte city of Tacloban along with 11 relatives whose homes were flooded in waist-high waters from incessant rain.

"We have yet to shake off our phobia. I hope to God we don't have a repeat of that," Villaseran, who lost 39 cousins in the Haiyan onslaught, told AFP by telephone.

"My missus stockpiled on groceries before the storm hit, but since we also have to feed these three other families we're now running low on food," he added.

Strong winds toppled trees and power pylons, knocking out power through the region while floods, small landslides and rock falls blocked roads and buried some homes, local officials and witnesses said.

Farmland in the mainly rural region was also under water, while seven people were injured by landslides and flying objects, the regional civil defence office said in a report.

"It was like a flashback again for residents of Tacloban city," its vice mayor Sambo Yaokasin told Manila television station ABS-CBN by telephone, referring to the Haiyan disaster.

The station broadcast images of flooded streets and corrugated iron roofing sheets flying off homes.

"Nearly half the villages here are flooded," Marcelo Picardal, vice governor of Eastern Samar province told ABS-CBN in a telephone interview.

Ferry services on the two islands remain suspended due to rough seas, with three fishermen also missing despite government warnings against sailing, it added.

The state weather service said more heavy rain was expected in the eastern Philippines in the coming hours, warning of flooding in low-lying areas and landslides in the uplands.

About 20 typhoons or weaker storms either make landfall in the Philippines or reach its waters each year, bringing annual misery and death and consigning millions of survivors to perennial poverty.

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