MANILA: At least three people were killed and six others were missing after a tropical storm struck the southern Philippines on Friday (Dec 21), unleashing floods and landslides across a region of 20 million people, officials said.
Tropical Storm Tembin hit the east coast of Mindanao, the archipelago nation's second-largest island, before dawn with gusts of 125 kilometres (80 miles) an hour bringing torrential rain, the state weather office said.
"We forced hundreds of people to evacuate some villages, but the water rose swiftly and our rescuers cannot reach other areas," civil defence officer Saripada Pacasum of Lanao del Sur province, one of the hardest-hit areas, told reporters.
The Philippines lies on the Pacific typhoon belt and endures an average of 20 typhoons and storms each year, but Mindanao is rarely hit by these cyclones.
A small landslide buried several houses in the town of Tugaya and killed two children, with five other people missing and believed trapped beneath the rubble, Pacasum said.
Another landslide buried four houses in the city of Valencia, killing an elderly woman, said the city's civil defence officer Junrey Vallejo.
Rescuers used heavy machinery to dig in search of a girl who remained missing as of Friday afternoon, he told reporters.
Police and civil defence officials reported heavy flooding in several Mindanao towns and cities as Tembin weakened and swiftly moved across the region.
Photos shared by rescuers on social media showed rampaging, mud-brown floodwaters sweeping down a highway in Lanao del Sur province, engulfing houses and a van, and people seeking refuge on the upper floors of their homes.
Pacasum, the provincial civil defence officer, said among the flooded areas was the city of Marawi, recovering from five months of fighting between troops and Islamic militants that left more than 1,100 people dead earlier this year.
Police also reported widespread flooding in Cagayan de Oro, one of Mindanao's largest cities.
Electricity was cut across large swathes of the island.
Tembin struck less than a week after Tropical Storm Kai-Tak devastated the central Philippines, leaving more than 54 dead and 24 missing.