Over 120 perish in Philippines

Dozens of landslides bury villages after a week of relentless rains

A woman calls out for help to rescuers in the town of Rosales, Pangasinan province, north of Manila on  Friday. AFP

Scores of towns and villages in the lowlands were flooded as overflowing dams opened their sluice gates to release water. At least 122 were killed by landslides and 13 others have previously been killed by the rains, which started one week ago.
“As of this moment, we have already retrieved 122 bodies,” Olive Luces, regional disaster head for the mountain regions, told television. Most of the deaths were in the vegetable-growing Benguet province, and in neighbouring Mountain Province.
“We really have no idea how many people were buried when the landslides happened because it was almost midnight and everybody was asleep,” said Loreto Espineli, police chief of Benguet. “Our recovery efforts are slowed down by mud, heavy rains and lack of power.”

The rains were brought by typhoon Parma, which first hit the Philippines on last Saturday and has since hovered around the northern part of the main island of Luzon, although it has weakened into a tropical depression.
Besides setting off landslides in the mountains, the rain has swollen rivers and reservoirs, forcing dams to release water and flooding areas downstream. About 60 to 80 per cent of the coastal province of Pangasinan has been flooded and 30,000 people evacuated, said Lieutenant Colonel Ernesto Torres at the NDCC.
“Many of the roads are impassable, under six to eight feet of water and hundreds are marooned on the roofs of their towns,” said Butch Velasco, a disaster official in Pangasinan.

Provincial Governor Amado Espino told local radio that rain and strong currents were hampering rescue efforts.

“We are isolated, all our major roads are closed. Even some of our evacuation centres are now flooded. We need all the help.”
In Nueva Ecija province to the eas t, 23 towns and cities were hit by floods, Governor Aurelio Umali said. Roads from Manila to the north were cut off.
The US military diverted troops and equipment from nearby exercises, anchoring a Navy relief ship off Pangasinan and pressing into service helicopters and small aircraft. Philippine military units and equipment were also in the area.

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