Rescuers battle Philippines storms

The Philippines has declared a state of emergency in a central province after floods and landslides killed up to 209 people, with a ferry disaster compounding the nation’s misery just before Christmas.

Heavy rains have led to floods and landslides in central regions
Heavy rains have led to floods and landslides in central regions

Philippine authorities have so far rescued 32 people from turbulent seas but 300 others are feared dead or missing following a spate of accidents caused by stormy weather.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo surveyed the damage in the worst-hit areas of Southern Leyte province on Tuesday as transport planes flew in food, medicine, rescue equipment and other supplies to thousands of families made homeless by avalanches of mud and torrents of water.

Rescuers are still searching for landslide victims on the central island and for survivors from three lost fishing vessels.

Lost at sea

Twenty people from the 63-tonne ferry Piary which sank in stormy seas off the western island of Palawan on Sunday were rescued by a Malaysian cargo ship.

Fifty-five others are missing despite a two-day search using aircraft and ships, officials said on Tuesday.

“We assume that the vessel sank,” coastguard chief Armando Gosingan said. A Philippiness Navy ship was scheduled to pick up the survivors, all locals, from the Malaysian-flagged Pacific Valor, he told DZBB radio.

Another 12 people, all crew from two fishing boats, were rescued off the island of Polillo, east of Manila, the civil defence office said.

At least five crew members of three other fishing vessels have been missing since Saturday. One of the boats was found off the coast of nearby Perez island with one of its six crew members dead on deck.

Emergency workers have found scores of victims buried in mud

Emergency workers have found
scores of victims buried in mud

Series of disasters

Torrential rain has lashed the central and southern Philippines in the past week, unleashing a series of disasters.

Landslides, floods and sea mishaps have left at least 303 people dead or missing, many of them from the tiny central island of Panaon, the civil defence office said.

Huge waves and bad weather are preventing rescuers and supplies from getting to the island, where one of four towns reported 105 people dead till Monday night, provincial vice governor Eva Tumol said.

The authorities have not heard from seven villages in Panaon, an island of 50,000 coconut farmers and fishermen, which was hit by massive landslides and at least one tornado on Friday night, Tumol said.

Environment abuse

“They (residents) are totally cut off from the supply of food, water and everything. The problem now is how to evacuate them,” Tumol said on DZBB.

Condolences and aid pledges have been pouring in from abroad with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan promising to raise aid for the Philippines.

Environment Secretary Elisea Gozun blamed the devastation in Panaon and the islands of Leyte, Mindanao and Bohol on forest-clearing to make way for cash crops.

“As early as 1928, the areas in stricken municipalities had been converted into coconut lands and agricultural areas,” she said in a statement.

Source : AFP

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