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MANILA – Severe tropical storm Naluge slammed into the Philippines on Saturday after causing flash floods and landslides that killed at least 72 people.

After making landfall on the sparsely populated island of Catanduanes before dawn, Nalge hit the main island of Luzon in the Philippines with winds of up to 95 kmh.

Heavy rains caused by an approaching storm began in the southern Philippines on Thursday, flooding most rural areas of Mindanao, an island the size of South Korea.

Landslides and flooding followed, and in some areas, fast-moving, debris-laden water swept entire families away.

By Saturday morning, the death toll had risen to 72, according to Rafaelito Alejandro, the country’s civil defense director. At least 14 people are still missing, he said.

Rescue teams are focused on Kusion village in Datu Odin Sing Suat in Maguindanao province on Mindanao, where dozens of bodies were recovered on Friday after flooding occurred.

Flash floods from mud and debris from mountains that have been largely cleared in recent years are one of the deadliest hazards caused by typhoons in the Philippines.

The Meteorological Agency said Naluge could hit the capital Manila.

“Based on our projections, this is very strong, so we were really ready,” said Alejandro, adding that 5,000 rescue teams were on standby.

He urged the inhabitants of Storm Road to stay home.

More than 7,000 people were evacuated before the landing, according to the Civil Defense Agency.

The Coast Guard has also suspended ferry services through most of the Philippines.

The storm has struck at the start of a long weekend in the country as millions return home to visit relatives’ graves.

The Philippines experiences an average of 20 large storms each year, killing hundreds and driving large areas into persistent poverty.

Scientists warn that such storms that kill livestock and destroy key infrastructure are getting stronger as the world warms because of climate change.AFP Death toll rises to 72 as tropical storm hits Philippines

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