Isolated Baguio running low on food

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Oct 12 2009 03:54 PM | Updated as of Oct 12 2009 11:54 PM

BAGUIO CITY - Rescue workers in the northern Philippines were on Monday trying to clear roads so that food, water and other supplies could reach survivors of landslides that killed nearly 300 people.

The National Disaster Coordinating Council in Manila said over 50 road sections and nine major bridges had either been destroyed in the landslides or washed away by floods, making it difficult to reach hardest hit areas.

Dozens of towns in the north of the Philippines' main island of Luzon also remained flooded after authorities were forced to release water from near bursting dams on Friday due to a week of rains dumped by tropical storm Parma.

The relentless rain loosened saturated soil in mountain communities in the Cordillera Administrative Region, triggering a deadly torrent of mud and rocks late last week that swallowed houses and roads.

The death toll in the region had so far reached 275, according to police there. But the official toll from Parma as reported by the disaster council in Manila stood at 199.

In the popular mountain resort of Baguio, an Aagence France-presse photographer said thousands of desperate residents were clambering through debris and negotiating road-side cliffs to bring supplies or to seek help.

The city had been totally isolated for two days, forcing the US military to airlift food supplies to the area.

Military engineers were Monday working to clear three main highways leading into Baguio, but had so far only managed to partially open one that was not yet fit for supply trucks.

Baguio Mayor Peter Bautista said on local radio that the city of 300,000 people was running low on food and petrol.

"Our food supply was gone, our gasoline requirements are now reserved for priority emergency vehicles," Bautista said on local radio.

He said funeral parlors were also running low on coffins, with 54 deaths so far recorded in his city alone.

Parma pummelled the northern region for a week before moving on the weekend into the South China Sea.

It first hit as a typhoon on October 3, exactly one week after tropical storm Ketsana dumped the heaviest rains in more than 40 years on Manila to the south on Luzon island.

Ketsana has left 337 people dead, with the death toll from both storms surpassing 630. Another 300,000 people out of the over six million people affected remain in evacuation camps.