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Death toll in Philippines landslides, floods reaches 85

Emergency teams have rushed to areas devastated by landslides and floods in the eastern Philippines, where the death toll has reached 85, according to officials.

Search, rescue and relief operations have been hampered by continuing heavy rains the past days, but officials were hoping to reach more communities with the weather beginning to clear.

At least 20 people were still missing from the landslides, Edgar Posadas, a spokesperson for the national disaster risk reduction office, said on Wednesday.

Sixty-nine people were reported killed in the eastern region of Bicol, while 16 others died in landslides and floods in the nearby region of Eastern Visayas and other areas, Posadas said.

In Camarines Sur province, at least 50 houses were buried in a landslide in the mountainside town of Sagnay, where emergency workers have recovered 30 bodies, according to the municipal disaster office.

One district that was badly hit was cut off by the landslides, and authorities planned to reach the area by boat, the office said.

Landslides also prevented the distribution of relief goods to at least four villages in the nearby province of Albay, where 14 people were killed, according to provincial Governor Francis Bichara.

“We will try to reach these areas by boats instead,” he said.

Nearly 25,000 people were displaced by the landslides and floods, which were triggered by heavy rains brought by a tropical depression that hit days after Christmas.

The tropical depression weakened into a low pressure area after making landfall but the heavy rain continued due to a cold front and the north-east monsoon, the weather bureau said.

Each year, the Philippines is hit by an average of 20 cyclones, causing floods, landslides and other accidents.

One of the strongest in recent memory, Typhoon Haiyan, hit the country in November 2013, killing more than 6,300 people and displacing more than four million others.

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