Landslides, floods kill over 150 in northern Philippines

 Residents wait for the floodwaters to subside on a flooded highway brought on rains by typhoon Parma in Rosales Pangasinan, north of Manila on Friday. Rueters

Relief officials estimated total damage at nearly 2 billion pesos ($43 million), including 1.6 billion pesos in lost crops.

Emergency teams, including troops, began clearing major roads in at least 16 northern provinces on the main Luzon island as the skies cleared and floods began to recede, allowing relief workers to gain access to muddied villages and submerged towns.

But Baguio City, known as the country's summer capital, in the vegetable-growing mountain province of Benguet 250 km (155 miles) north of the capital, remained totally cut off by boulders and soil loosened by rains brought by Typhoon Parma.

"I have some bads news today because a total of 153 people have died in floods and landslides in the north," Lieutenant-Colonel Ernesto Torres, spokesman for the national disaster agency, told reporters, adding he expects the number of fatalities to rise because dozens were still missing.

"Our rescue teams are working round-the-clock to search for more victims as an entire village was buried by soil loosened by heavy rains brought by storm Parma," he said.

Parma first hit the Philippines last Saturday and hovered around the northern part of Luzon throughout the week. It has since weakened into a tropical depression and moved out to sea.

Torres said Benguet was the hardest hit with more than 130 people killed in landslides, including rescuers trying to pull bodies out of collapsed houses.

Besides setting off landslides in the mountains, the rain has swollen rivers and reservoirs, forcing dams used for hydropower and irrigation to release water and causing more flooding in areas downstream.

About 80 percent of the coastal province of Pangasinan in northwestern Philippines were inundated, with 50,000 people evacuated from low-lying areas, Eugene Cabrera, head of the regional disaster agency, said in a radio interview.

The floods and mudslides came two weeks after another storm, Ketsana, inundated areas in and around the capital Manila, killing at least 337 people and forcing half a million from their homes.

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