Flood - Philippines, November 2004
Philippines, 30 November 2004 (From AFP) - Rescuers were desperately searching for survivors Tuesday after floods and landslides unleashed by a tropical storm in the Philippines killed an estimated 150 people, most buried alive under tonnes of debris. A deadly mix of logs and earth dislodged by heavy rain buried several areas in the towns of Real, Infanta and Nakar on the east coast of Luzon Island shortly before midnight after Monday's storm, rescuers and survivors told AFP.
Local air force commander Colonel Alfredo Cayco, who is in charge of flying people in and out of the area, said local police have reported that more than a hundred bodies have been recovered in the vicinity of the three towns. The towns have been isolated after their bridges were smashed by flash floods or landslides, he said. Four helicopters had been flying in supplies and rescuers and flying out the injured but would soon have to halt operations. "Definitely, we can't fly at night and the wind is getting rough," he said.
Cayco expressed fears the death toll could rise since rain was still falling, hampering rescue efforts. "The whole place is covered with mud and the waters are still rising," he said, adding that even the second-floor levels of buildings were now being reached by the floodwaters.
Worst hit was Real, a town of just over 30,000 people where 94 people were believed buried by landslides, said air force spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Restituto Padilla. The nearby towns of Nakar and Infanta suffered 16 and nine dead, respectively, the civil defence office said. Dingalan town to the north reported 19 deaths, the office said. Eleven other people were killed in towns north and east of Manila, while a landslide killed another person in the town of Vinzons on the Bicol peninsula.
Several thousand people are still stranded on their rooftops in Real, Infanta and Nakar, officials said. An AFP photographer who overflew the area aboard a military helicopter said only the roofs of houses and the tops of trees could be seen above the floodwaters, with logs and planks scattered everywhere. Parts of three motor vehicles could be seen protruding above the water.
The storm caused heavy rain on the Sierra Madre mountain range northwest of Real that unleashed floods on the central Luzon plains. On a highway near the town of San Leonardo, about 100 passengers of three buses were rescued by helicopters and rubber boats after being marooned by the overflowing waters of the Pampanga River, local television footage showed. The storm swept away the roof of a house which slammed into the side of two of the buses, while another lay on its side partially submerged. Nearly 1,800 people elsewhere fled their homes amid rising floodwaters.
Officials said poor people living on riverbanks and under bridges might be forcibly evacuated due to the floods. Local television station ABS-CBN screened aerial footage of Real survivors pointing at 14 bodies sprawled on the ground. Infanta residents blamed the flooding on illegal loggers who they said were responsible for all the treetrunks washed down by the flood.
Armand Balilo, spokesman for the Philippine coastguard, said the town hall of Infanta, normally a centre for disaster relief, was destroyed by the storm, forcing them to use a local airport for evacuees.
The tropical depression struck Infanta and Real on Monday before dissipating over the Sierra Madre, the weather bureau said. Meanwhile, another tropical storm bore down on the Philippines from the Pacific Ocean with maximum sustained winds of 110 kilometers an hour. The storm was estimated to be 1,530 kilometers east of the eastern island of Samar at dawn and moving northwest at 33 kilometers an hour, meteorologists said.