(UPDATE) 'Pepeng' leaves 193 dead, 46 missing


Posted at Oct 11 2009 12:53 AM | Updated as of Oct 11 2009 05:14 PM

2.2 million people affected; P5 billion in damages

MANILA - Rescue workers pulled out more bodies from a small mountain village buried under mud in Northern Luzon on Saturday, as the death toll from landslides and floods triggered by heavy rains rose to 193, disaster officials said.

As of 6 a.m. on Sunday, 489,840 families or around 2.2 million people have been affected by tropical storm “Pepeng” (international code name Parma), according to the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) situation report.

A total 23,331 families or around 100,000 individuals remain in 281 designated evacuation centers. Meantime, 101 people were injured while 46 are missing.

The death toll from landslides in Benguet rose to 134 while 34 remained missing.

The NDCC estimated total damage at P5.08 billion, including P3.99 billion to agriculture and private property and P1.09 billion to infrastructure.

Houses that were totally damaged were pegged at 2,748 while homes that were partially damaged amounted to 20,607.

Emergency teams, including troops, began clearing major roads in at least 16 northern provinces in Luzon as the skies cleared and floods began to recede, allowing relief workers to gain access to muddied villages and submerged towns.

Baguio City isolated

But Baguio City, the country's summer capital in the vegetable-growing mountain province of Benguet 250 km north of the capital, remained totally cut off by boulders and soil loosened by rains brought by Pepeng.

"I have some bad news today because a total of 153 people have died in floods and landslides in the north," Lieutenant-Colonel Ernesto Torres, spokesman for the NDCC, told reporters, adding he expects the number of fatalities to rise because dozens were still missing.

"Our rescue teams are working round-the-clock to search for more victims as an entire village was buried by soil loosened by heavy rains brought by storm Pepeng," he said.

Pepeng first hit the Philippines last Saturday and hovered around the northern part of Luzon throughout the week. It has since weakened into a tropical depression and moved out to sea.

Benguet hardest hit

Torres said Benguet was the hardest hit with at least 134 people killed in landslides, including rescuers trying to pull bodies out of collapsed houses.

Besides setting off landslides in the mountains, the rain has swollen rivers and reservoirs, forcing dams used for hydropower and irrigation to release water and causing more flooding in areas downstream.

About 80 percent of the coastal province of Pangasinan were inundated, with 50,000 people evacuated from low-lying areas, Eugene Cabrera, head of the regional disaster agency, said in a radio interview.

Over 36,000 people or around 7,700 families were staying in 138 evacuation centers.

Floods to remain in some areas

The NDCC said the towns of Mangaldan, San Fabian, and Dagupan City, all in Pangasinan province "will remain under water until early next week."

It said even the use of rubber boats is "not advisable because flood waters are deep and with strong current."

Two river channels had formed in Pangasinan following the breaches in the dike systems.  "Flooding is expected in the downstream side of Magat, San Roque, and Pantabangan," the NDCC said.

Dam operators are still spilling water to bring down water levels in the dams to normal spilling levels.

As of 10 p.m. on Saturday, tropical depression “Pepeng” was 360 km west of Laoag City with maximum winds of 55 kph near the center. It was forecast to be 680 km west northwest of Laoag city by Sunday evening.

With this development, the NDCC said “Pepeng” is currently outside the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR).

Damaged roads

The NDCC also said that national roads going to the regions of Ilocos, Cagayan, Central Luzon, and the Cordillera are "reportedly with road cuts due to landslides debris and washed-out bridges rendering some areas non-passable to light and all types of vehicles and inaccessibility to some areas."

Blackouts were still being experienced in large parts of northern Luzon.  Phone landlines were down in the Ilocos region, and only cell phones were working.  

Kennon Road, Marcos Highway and Naguilian Road remained closed to traffic. Two spans of the Bued Bridge connecting Pangasinan and La Union collapsed rendering the bridge impassable to vehicles.

People traveling to northern Luzon were advised to take the following detour routes: Camiling Road in going to Dagupan, Lingayen and Binmaley; and Urdaneta and Binalona Roads in going to Manaoag.

Broken dikes worsen floods

A dike in Rosales, Pangasinan collapsed, adding to the massive flooding in the municipality of Dike along Bued River in Sison, Pangasinan.

The flooding breached not only in Sison but the municipalities Pozorrubio, San Jacinto, Mangaldan, Manaoag and San Fabian in Pangasinan. The erosion of a dike in San Fabian, Pangasinan caused flooding in seven barangays
Two barangays in the municipality of Nueva Era, Ilocos Norte--barangays Barangobong and Uguis--were isolated due to river swelling, the NDCC said.
Based on monitoring by weather bureau, PAGASA, the NDCC said flooding is expected to subside slowly in the following low-lying areas in Ilocos Region and Central Luzon:  Sta. Barbara, Calasiao, Binmaley, Binalonan, Malasiqui and cities of Dagupan and Urdaneta; Mangaldan, Mapandan, San Fabian, San Jacinto, Laoac, Manaoag, Sison and Pozzorubio; San Manuel (Tarlac), Tarlac City, Gerona, Paniqui, Moncada, Sta. Ignacia and Camiling; Manuel, Asingan, Sta. Maria, Rosales, Villasis, Sto. Tomas, Alcala, Bautista, Bayambang, San Carlos City, Urbiztondo, Mangatarem, Aguillar, Bugallon, Labrador and Lingayen.

The floods and mudslides came two weeks after another storm, “Ondoy” (international code name Ketsana), inundated areas in and around the capital Manila, killing at least 337 people and forcing half a million from their homes.  -- With a report from Manny Mogato, Reuters