April 14 (UPI) — More than 70 people have died and tens of thousands have been displaced by a tropical storm that slammed the Philippines, officials said Wednesday.
Tropical Storm Megi — known locally as Agaton — made landfall on Sunday and packed winds that reached close to 60 mph. The storm had dissipated by early Wednesday.
Dozens, however, remain missing amid a search by rescuers. The heaviest damage is concentrated in the central province of Leyte, where several towns and villages were hit by landslides caused by the storm. Images released by authorities showed rescuers on rafts or wading through muddy water as they worked to evacuate stranded locals.
The death toll rose on Wednesday to at least 76, CNN Philippines reported.
The count from the country’s National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, which was last updated early Wednesday, put the official toll at 42 dead. The agency said more than 580,000 people were affected by the storm and 42,000 were displaced.
Megi was the first major storm of 2022 for the Philippines, which averages about 20 per year.
The country is still recovering from the impact of Typhoon Rai, which devastated the eastern Philippines in December and killed hundreds. Last month, the Red Cross said that 2.4 million people were still in need of assistance.
The archipelago of 7,000 islands regularly faces some of the world’s greatest disaster risk levels for typhoons, droughts, floods, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Climate change has intensified the impact of extreme weather events, according to scientists, and the Philippines has experienced some of its most deadly storms over the past decade.
In 2013, Typhoon Haiyan, one of the most powerful tropical cyclones on record, killed more than 6,000 people.
On Wednesday, Greenpeace Philippines said Megi was a warning sign of worsening storms to come and called on the government in Manila to take more urgent climate action.
“Climate risks are now appearing more frequently and are more intense,” Greenpeace campaigner Virginia Benosa-Llorin said in a statement. “Death and loss of homes and livelihoods are a yearly occurrence in the Philippines.
“The only uncertainty we have each year is how bad it’s going to be.”