Severe Tropical Storm Paeng slammed into the Philippines on Saturday, Oct. 29, after unleashing flash floods and landslides that left at least 72 people dead, officials said.
Paeng pounded the archipelago nation's main island of Luzon with maximum winds of 95 kilometres (59 miles) an hour after making landfall on the sparsely populated Catanduanes island before dawn.
Heavy rains triggered by the approaching storm began Thursday, Oct. 27 in the southern Philippines, the state weather service said, inundating mostly rural areas on Mindanao island.
That was followed by landslides and flooding, with fast-moving, debris-laden waters sweeping away entire families in some areas.
By Saturday morning, the death toll had risen to 72, said the country's civil defence director, Rafaelito Alejandro.
At least 14 people were still missing, he added.
Rescuers are focusing on the village of Kusiong, where dozens of bodies were recovered on Friday, Oct. 28 after the floods hit.
In recent years, flash floods with mud and debris from largely deforested mountainsides have been among the deadliest hazards posed by typhoons in the Philippines.
The state weather service said Paeng could hit the capital Manila.
"Based on our projections, this one is really strong so we really prepared for it," Alejandro said, adding that 5,000 rescue teams were on standby.
He urged residents in the storm's path to stay at home.
Mindanao is rarely hit by the 20 or so typhoons that strike the Philippines each year and kill hundreds of people. Those that do, however, tend to be deadlier than those that hit the country's main island of Luzon.
A long mountain range walls off most of Luzon from the Pacific, where most storms are spawned, helping to absorb the blow, the state weather service said.
Local filmmaker Remar Pablo told AFP he was shooting a beauty pageant in Upi when the floodwaters suddenly came in after midnight and forced audience members to flee.
A row of cars sat half-submerged on the street outside, video footage showed.
"We were stranded inside," said Pablo, who eventually waded through the water to get home.
Rescuers carried a baby in a plastic tub as they navigated chest-deep water, a photo posted by the provincial police showed.
'It was a shock'
Floodwaters have receded in several areas, but Cotabato remained almost entirely waterlogged.
The army deployed its trucks to collect stranded residents in Cotabato and nearby towns, provincial civil defence chief Nasrullah Imam said.
"It was a shock to see municipalities which had never flooded getting hit this time," Imam said, adding that some families were swept away when the waters hit their homes.
More than 7,000 people were evacuated ahead of the landfall, the civil defence office said.
The coast guard has also suspended ferry services through most of the Philippines.
The storm struck at the beginning of a long weekend in the country, when millions return to their hometowns to visit the graves of their relatives. (AFP)