12/31/2014, 00.00
PHILIPPINES - MALAYSIA
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Dozens of people die, thousands are displaced by floods in the Philippines, Malaysia, and Thailand

Tropical storm Jangmi caught entire regions off guard with winds up to 210 km/h. Filipino authorities come in for criticism for failing to warn people early. The local agriculture suffers US$ 9 million in damages. Record flooding is also registered in Malaysia with more than 250,000 people persons displaced. Floods also hit southern Thailand.

Manila (AsiaNews/Agencies) - In the Philippines, the death toll from flooding and landslides wrought by tropical storm Jangmi rose to 53 today, more than during super-typhoon Hagupit, which hit the country earlier this month.

Some regions were caught off guard by the deluge with winds exceeding 210 km/h and torrential rains.

In Catbalogan town in Samar province, 19 people died in a landslide that left homes and vehicles buried under rocks and mud. "We did not expect a deluge," local Mayor Stephany Uy-Tan said.

"We thought the hill where the landslide hit was tough as rocks," the mayor explained. "There was no evacuation, people were just advised to prepare for possible landslides".

Jangmi affected about 122,000 people, 80,000 of which found refuge in evacuation centres set up by the authorities.

In Misamis Oriental province, floods flattened rice and cornfields resulting in an estimated US$ 9 million in damages. In Leyte, landslides and floods closed off major roads.

Mina Marasigan, the national disaster-monitoring agency's spokeswoman, defended the government's handling of the storm saying weather warnings were sent out.

"Maybe people underestimated the situation because it's a tropical depression, not a super typhoon. They dismissed it as weak," she said.

Every year, about 20 tropical storms hit the Philippines. Some are as devastating as the super-typhoon Yolanda, which killed thousands of people and displaced many more in November 2013.

In addition to the Philippines, bad weather also hit Malaysia and southern Thailand, where strong winds and heavy rains caused widespread flooding and landslides, killing dozens of people.

In Malaysia, the worst flooding in a decade forced nearly a quarter of a million people from their homes, with the government coming under renewed fire for its perceived slow response.

Most criticism was directed at Prime Minister Najib Razak who was photographed playing golf with President Barack Obama in Hawaii as the disaster unfolded.

Major flooding was also reported in five southern Thai provinces - Narathiwat, Yala, Pattani, Phatthalung and Songkhla. At least 10,000 people were evacuated with extensive damage to agriculture and local production.

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