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In this photo provided by the Philippine Coast Guard, rescuers use boats to evacuate residents from flooded areas due to Tropical Storm Nalgae at Parang, Maguindanao province, southern Philippines on Friday Oct. 28, 2022. Image Credit: AP

COTABATO, Philippines: The death toll from flash floods and landslides ahead of a tropical storm in the southern Philippines rose to 67 on Friday, an official tally said, with rescuers racing to save residents of a mountain village buried in mud.

The village of Kosiong near the town of Datu Odin Sinsuat accounted for many of the dead after heavy overnight rain unleashed floods mixed with mud, rocks and fallen trees that buried the community, said the area's civil defence office in a statement.

Eleven bodies were retrieved in the southern province of Maguindanao, which was also hit hard by approaching tropical storm Nalgae, said Naguib Sinarimbo, interior minister of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Mindanao (BARMM).

Rescue and retrieval operations are temporarily suspended overnight and will resume on Saturday morning, Sinarimbo said, as more people were feared still trapped under mud and flood waters, particularly in the town of Datu Odin.

“Based on the assessment on the ground, at that specific site, there were many (who got buried). The number might hit 80, but we are hoping it won’t reach that number,” Sinarimbo said via phone.

Authorities have evacuated thousands of people out of the path of Nalgae, which could possibly make landfall Friday night in Samar province in central Philippines, disaster officials said.

Sinarimbo said the rainfall in Maguindanao province had exceeded expectations.

“There were preparations made but unfortunately, the rainfall was more than what people had expected,” Sinarimbo said.

In this handout photo obtained from Regional Maritime Unit 12 - Sultan Kudarat Maritime Police Station Facebook page, rescuers help residents evacuate in Kalamansig, Sultan Kudarat on October 28, 2022. Image Credit: AFP

Growing intensity of tropical cyclones

In another southern province, Sultan Kudarat, rescue workers used rubber boats to get to residents trapped in chest-deep waters, images shared by the coast guard showed.

Landslides and floods are frequent in the Philippines, due in part to the growing intensity of tropical cyclones that regularly batter the country. The Philippines sees an average 20 typhoons a year.

Tropical storm Nalgae, packing winds of 75 km (47 miles) per hour, forced flight cancellations just as thousands of people were planning to travel to their home towns to observe All Souls Day. Schools were also shut down and some ports saw operations paralysed.

The storm could intensify further while moving over the Philippine Sea, the weather bureau said.

The unusually intense rains that flooded several towns in Maguindanao and outlying provinces in a mountainous region with marshy plains were caused by Tropical Storm Nalgae, which was expected to slam into the country’s eastern coast from the Pacific Ocean on Saturday, according to forecasters.

Floodwaters rapidly rose in many low-lying villages, forcing some residents to climb onto their roofs, where they were rescued by army troops, police and volunteers, Sinarimbo said. He said many of the swamped areas had not been flooded for years, including Cotabato city where he lives.

“In one area in Upi only the attic of a school can be seen above the floodwater,’’ disaster-response officer Nasrullah Imam said, referring to a flood-engulfed town in Maguindanao.

The wide rain bands of Nalgae, the 16th storm to hit the Philippine archipelago this year, enabled it to dump rainfall in the country’s south although the storm was blowing farther north, government forecaster Sam Duran said.