24 dead, 9 missing in slow-moving Philippine storm

MANILA, Philippines

Waist-deep floodwaters swamped the houses of about half a million people, nearly half of the population of eastern Albay province, after Tropical Storm Nock-ten set off pounding rains since Monday and sent residents to seek shelter in churches and village halls, said Gov. Joey Salceda.

Regional civil defense chief Rafaelito Alejandro said floodwaters in Albay started to subside by noon Wednesday after the storm made landfall in Aurora, about 230 miles (370 kilometers) to the north. It packed maximum winds of 59 miles (95 kilometers) per hour and gusts of up to 75 mph (120 kph).

Alejandro said at least 20 people died in the Bicol region, which includes Albay. Eight of those were buried in landslides in Albay's Polangui township and in nearby Camarines Norte province.

Other fatalities included a mother who was bitten by a poisonous snake that was swept into her home by a flashflood near the Albay provincial capital of Legazpi.

National civil defense administrator Benito Ramos said two others drowned in Cavite province just south of Manila and one each in the central provinces of Marinduque and Iloilo.

Most of the missing are poor fishermen who ventured out to sea despite the stormy weather, he said.

The storm weakened slightly after hitting land, said forecaster Sonny Pajarilla. It is expected to blow out of the country to the South China Sea by Thursday after cutting through the heart of Luzon Island.

Authorities cut off electricity to most of the region to prevent electrocutions, Ramos said.

One of the victims during the power outage was Salceda's mother, who fell on her head after slipping in the dark bathroom, Alejandro said, adding that she wasn't counted as a storm fatality.

Power was restored in Legazpi and most of the other provincial urban centers later Wednesday. Workers removed toppled trees, rocks and other debris blocking roads and firefighters hosed away mud from the streets.

Many domestic flights were canceled and about 1,600 ferry passengers stranded.

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