December 9, 2005

Philippine troops rush relief to flood victims

By Manny Mogato

MANILA (Reuters) - Philippine troops, on rubber boats and
amphibious trucks, were rushing to six flooded areas south of
Manila to evacuate nearly 120,000 people and supply food,
medicine and blankets, disaster officials said on Friday.

Two people were missing and presumed dead after a landslide
on Wednesday in Pagbilao town in Quezon province. In Calapan
City on Mindoro island, rescue workers recovered the body of a
man who drowned in floods on Thursday.

Neri Amparo, operations chief of the Office of Civil
Defense, said residents of Mindoro, parts of which were under
chest-deep water, should brace for more rain until Sunday,
citing forecasts of a heavy monsoon across wide areas of the

She said troops were mobilized to evacuate people to higher
ground and ration food to those who wanted to stay.

"In the culture of Filipinos, we do not want to leave our
homes," Amparo said. "That's why we agreed that those who will
not go to the evacuation center will be given food through
rationing, utilizing the rubber boats."

She said displaced families were gathered at public halls,
gymnasiums and school buildings after rains at the start of the
week inundated Quezon, Camarines Norte and Mindoro provinces,
damaging farms, homes and infrastructure.

Close to 200,000 people have been affected by flash floods
triggered by heavy rain and bursting dykes, but water levels in
some areas had started to recede on Friday.

Doy Leachon, an official in Calapan City, said dykes
protecting the city had been breached due to swelling rivers.

Disaster officials said Calapan City was the worst hit by
flooding, forcing the local government to place the province
under a state of calamity.

Environmental activists said the floods were exacerbated by
logging, slash-and-burn farming and quarrying in the mountains
in Quezon and Mindoro.

The Philippines is hit by about 20 typhoons and big
tropical storms each year. The most destructive in recent times
was Typhoon Thelma, which struck Leyte island in November 1991,
unleashing floods in Ormoc City that killed about 5,000 people.

Late last year, just before the devastating Indian Ocean
tsunami, four fierce storms triggered landslides and floods
that left 1,600 people dead or missing and hundreds of
thousands displaced in several provinces north and east of

The Philippines was not affected by the tsunami.