Tornado destroys village; 50 die in Southern Leyte

By Philippine News Service
December 21, 2003

TACLOBAN CITY, Leyte     –     After heavy rains loosened the soil and triggered landslides that killed 200 in Southern Leyte, a tornado destroyed a remote barangay on a nearby island, leaving at least 50 people dead and 394 families homeless.

The tornado’s powerful, twisting windstorm in contact with the ground and a cloud base swept away at least 60 homes in Barangay Pinut-an, San Ricardo, Panaon island about the same time a massive landslide struck the neighboring towns of Liloan, San Francisco and San Vicente Friday night. 

A report from Mercedes Aberilla of the provincial social welfare and development office (PSWDO) in Maasin City said the dead in Barangay Pinut-an included former San Ricardo mayor Vicente Mejia, husband of the incumbent mayor.

The toll in Barangay Pinut-an could rise because a number of people remain missing.

In San Francisco, rescue teams recovered and identified at least 33 people; others remain unidentified. Their bodies were laid on the town plaza, awaiting embalming.

Health authorities supervising rescue operations here are complaining of a lack of formalin to mask the stench of decomposing bodies.

To prevent the spread of diseases, relief officials said they would bury unclaimed bodies after three days.

Southern Leyte Landslide
(all photos by PCPO/PNS)

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An aerial photo of the landslide in San Francisco, Southern Leyte.