Agaton death toll climbs to 40

Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The death toll from Agaton, the first storm to batter the country this year, has climbed to 40, disaster officials said yesterday, as weather forecasters warned of more heavy rains.

The week-long rains brought by the low-pressure area before it became Agaton has wreaked havoc across Mindanao, affecting more than 580,000 people, 161,000 of whom have been displaced and moved to evacuation centers.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said the number of dead increased by three from Friday’s toll, as the state weather bureau said further “moderate to heavy” rains were expected over large areas of the Visayas and Mindanao.

Of the fatalities, 18 were recorded each in the Davao and Caraga regions, three in Northern Mindanao, and one in the Zamboanga Peninsula, the NDRRMC said.

Public storm warning signals have been hoisted in eight provinces in Mindanao, which are expected to be hit by 60 kilometer per hour (kph) winds over the next 36 hours.

“Tropical Depression Agaton is expected to bring moderate to occasionally heavy rains and thunderstorms over Bohol, Siquijor, Northern Mindanao and the rest of the Caraga region,” the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said.

PAGASA’s weather division chief Robert Sawi said rains will continue to prevail in many parts of the Visayas and Mindanao this week due to the tail end of a cold front.

As of 4 p.m. yesterday, public storm warning signal no. 1 remained hoisted over Surigao del Sur, Agusan del Sur, Davao Oriental, Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, and Compostela Valley.

Agaton maintained its wind intensity of 55 kph and was spotted at 215 kilometers southeast of Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur or 220 km east of Davao City as of 4 p.m.

Agaton slightly accelerated – from five kph to seven kph – toward the eastern section of Mindanao yesterday morning.

The storm slowed down in the afternoon and was moving southwest at five kph as of 4 p.m., PAGASA said.

“Agaton will move southwest toward Davao-Surigao area in the next few days and bring rains over parts of Mindanao and the Visayas today and tomorrow,” Sawi said.

Sawi said Agaton was not expected to intensify further due to the prevailing cold weather in the country.

“It could weaken into a low-pressure area or totally dissipate in the next two days,” Sawi said.

“Although Agaton is expected to dissipate, moderate to occasionally heavy rains will continue to prevail over the Visayas and Mindanao due to the tail end of a cold front,” he said.

Most parts of Luzon will be partly cloudy to cloudy with light rains due to the northeast monsoon.

The weather condition in the Visayas and Mindanao will start to improve beginning tomorrow, Sawi said.

Agaton was predicted to be at 155 km southeast of Davao City this afternoon and 60 km south of General Santos City tomorrow afternoon.

It will be at 205 km southwest of General Santos City or out of the Philippine area of responsibility by Wednesday afternoon.

The storm is expected to bring some heavy rains and thunderstorms in the Visayas where millions remain homeless after Super Typhoon Yolanda cut a wide swath of destruction last November.

Yolanda, one of the worst natural disasters to hit the country, left nearly 8,000 dead and missing after it triggered giant tsunami-like waves that swallowed entire coastal communities.

Office of Civil Defense (OCD) regional director Liza Mazo said a landslide had blocked the national highway in Barangay Agfa, Sibagat town in Agusan del Sur, slowing the emergency response.

A total of 21,747 families have been moved to 303 evacuation centers in the five provinces of the Caraga region.

Classes were ordered suspended today in Agusan del Norte as floodwaters continue to rise because of the heavy rains brought by Agaton.

Provincial officials of Davao del Norte, Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley also suspended classes in all levels today.

 â€“ With Helen Flores, Ben Serrano, Edith Regalado

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