Emergency teams, including troops, began clearing major roads in at least 16 northern provinces on the main island of Luzon as the skies cleared and floods began to recede on Saturday, allowing relief workers to gain access to muddied villages and submerged towns.
Al Jazeera’s Marga Ortigas in Pangasinan province – where thousands of people have been stranded as a result of the flooding and landslides – said: “The weather has calmed a little bit, it has stopped raining and it has pretty much been a sunny day.
Typhoons: Asia’s mega-storms
“But while other areas are seeing waters recede, all that water is rushing into Dagupan City, in the lowest valley of Pangasinan, and it acts like a catch-basin for these receding waters.
“Rumours among the people in north Luzon are that the five major dams there are threatening to burst. The government had to issue a statement that this was not the case.
“But this has not stopped the exodus of residents trying to carry as many of their belongings as they could out of the trapped cities.”
Fatalities to rise
Lieutenant-Colonel Ernesto Torres, a spokesman for the national disaster agency, said on Saturday he expected the number of fatalities to rise.
“Our rescue teams are working around the clock to search for more victims as an entire village was buried by soil loosened by heavy rains brought by storm Parma.”
Tropical storm Parma, responsible for the past week of rains, has continued to hover just off Luzon.
Further south of Luzon, in the nation’s capital, Manila, nearly 300,000 homeless survivors from Tropical Storm Ketsana were packed into evacuation camps following record rains on September 26 that killed at least 337 people.
|Parma has been hanging over the Philippines after initially hitting as a typhoon [AFP]|
US soldiers helping out in the capital extended their relief work to the north on Friday, dispatching helicopters and other rescue equipment, the Filipino military said.
The US embassy announced an extra two million dollars in aid for the Parma victims on top of money and materials donated for the Ketsana operations.
John Holmes, the UN’s humanitarian chief, is to set begin a two-day visit to the country on Monday to review relief efforts, the world body said.
The worst of the overnight landslides appeared to be in Benguet province, where 120 people were confirmed killed in five towns, Nestor Fongwan, the provincial governor, said.
Another 38 people were confirmed dead in the neighbouring mountain resort of Baguio, officials there said.
Days of rain from Parma forced authorities to open the gates on five dams, sending water cascading through dozens of towns in Pangasinan, which has a population of 2.5 million people.
One official said about 60 per cent of Pangasinan, including about 30 towns, was flooded, with waters reaching as high as the second floor of buildings.
In the town of Rosales, neck-high waters swallowed up houses, vehicles, rice fields and even a large shopping mall.
Desperate local officials made urgent pleas for rubber boats and helicopters to rescue those stranded by the floods.
Parma has been hanging over the northern Philippines since initially hitting as a typhoon on October 3.
Parma hit the Philippines exactly one week after tropical storm Ketsana dumped the heaviest rains in more than four decades on Manila.
The government has been overwhelmed by the crisis, which has forced hundreds of thousands of people in Manila and other parts of Luzon into makeshift evacuation centres after losing their homes to the floods.