Flooding, landslides kill 137 in Philippines

A boatman transports three empty wooden coffins on the edge of Laguna Lake east of Manila on Thursday.
Flooding and resulting landslides killed 137 people Thursday and Friday in this nation’s northern provinces, including Baguio City, Benguet Province and Mountain Province, the Office of Civil Defense in Cordillera said Friday.

Another 43 people were missing and 45 were injured, it said. Landslides blocked traffic along the Marchos Highway, Naguilian Road, Kennon Road and Ambuklao Road, cutting access to Baguio City, Benguet Province and Mountain Province, it said. The floods were unleased by tropical depression Parma, which had been downgraded from a typhoon. Earlier reports from Rocky Baraan, provincial administrator of Pangasinan, said flooding had inundated 32 towns and two cities, Dagupan and Urdaneta. Some 35,000 people had fled to evacuation centers, the official Philippines News Agency reported, citing the Provincial Disaster Coordinating Council. The worst-hit areas included Bayambang, Alcala and Basista, the news agency reported. People clambered onto rooftops as floodwaters rose, calling and texting for help. Rescue trucks were hampered by floodwaters that reach the roofs of single-story houses, Baraan said. About 16 rubber rescue boats had been deployed. Since the rains started in central Luzon, three dams in the Pangasinan area have been releasing vast amounts of water — up to 10 million cubic meters per hour at one dam, dam officials said. Water passing through the three dams — the Ambuklao, the Binga and the San Roque — is rushing into the Agno River, which has been swollen since Thursday and affects seven towns in eastern Pangasinan, dam officials said. Water released from the San Roque dam has contributed to the flooding in eastern Pangasinan, acknowledged Alex Palada, division manager for flood forecasting and warning of the National Power Corporation. Dam officials had no choice but to maintain safe water levels, he added, noting that he alerted Pangasinan Governor Amado Espino. The governor started to evacuate residents Thursday when the Agno River started to rise, Palada said. In the last several days, water has become the Philippines’ biggest enemy, as Parma, locally known as “Pepeng,” dumped as much as 36 inches (91.4 centimeters) of rain in some parts of the nation of islands, compounding misery in areas already flooded by earlier storm Ketsana.

Parma was forecast to have winds of no greater than 39 mph (63 kph) by Friday. The U.S. Navy was expected to join rescue operations in Pangasinan, according to the agency.