By Roy Ramos
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines
More than 200 people were killed as tropical storm Vinta unleashed strong winds and heavy widespread rain across southern Philippines Mindanao islands.
Richard Gordon, chairman of the Philippine Red Cross, in a tweet Saturday night, confirmed 156 deaths, 291 missing and 86 injured persons monitored by the organization.
Meanwhile, citing data from the Philippine National Police, Lanao del Norte province, one of the most devastated provinces reported at least 135 deaths, followed by the province of Zamboanga del Norte which posted at least 47 deaths mostly due to drowning or buried in landslides.
Other affected provinces, Lanao del Sur, Bukidnon, Iligan and Davao, reported 29 fatalities according to various local media outlets.
Leaving a trail of devastation in a large area of the country, officials have given conflicting death tolls as some areas are yet to be penetrated by response teams.
Massive landslides and flashfloods wiped out a remote village of 103 houses or about a population of 2,000 in Lanao del Norte.
The state weather bureau, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) warned last week of the gravity of Vinta but the warnings to evacuate were ignored by residents, local officials lamented.
In a press briefing Saturday, the Office of Civil Defense Spokesperson Romina Marasigan told reporters that 12,760 families were evacuated to 211 evacuation centers.
Vinta, which made landfall as a severe tropical storm Friday dawn in Davao Oriental province, brought heavy rains across the Mindanao islands. It made its second landfall in Palawan Province Saturday evening and is expected to exit the country by Sunday, said PAGASA.
Just last week, central Philippines was hit by tropical storm “Urduja” which claimed at least 40 lives and destroyed an estimated PHP1 billion ($19.95 million) in infrastructure and agriculture.
The Philippines suffers around 20 typhoons and storms each year, many of them deadly.
In 2013, Typhoon Haiyan -- one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded -- struck the country’s central islands, leaving more than 8,000 people dead, missing and injured.