Floods, mudslides bring death to Northern Luzon

MANILA – Floods and mudslides brought death and devastation to Benguet, Pangasinan and other provinces of Northern Luzon Friday as Tropical Depression Pepeng continued to take its toll on the nation.

Disaster officials said at least 137 people have died while 43 more remain missing after a series of rain-triggered landslides overnight Thursday and on Friday affected the Cordilleras.

Benguet Gov. Nestor Fongwan said Little Kibungan in Barangay Longlong, La Trinidad town was the worst hit after a landslide buried 30 houses in the village at 10:30 p.m. Thursday night.

Officials have placed the number of residents in Little Kibungan at 150 although many residents reportedly fled the area before the landslide.

At least 54 people were reportedly killed in Baguio City due to a landslide. Seven more people died in a landslide that hit Tublay municipality.

Mountain Province Governor Maximo Dulag said five people have been confirmed killed and 32 more missing in Tadian municipality.

Dr. Olive Luces of the Cordillera civil defense office said four major entry and exit points to Baguio, Benguet and Mountain Province remain impassable, cutting off much needed aid to those areas.

60 percent of Pangasinan flooded

Meanwhile, the downstream farming plains of Pangasinan were inundated with waters that reached two storeys high after dams in the mountains could not hold the phenomenal amount of water that has fallen on the region.

“The rains in this area are unprecedented,” the executive officer of the National Disaster Coordinating Council, Glen Rabonza, told Agence France Presse.

“We are stretched, no doubt, but we are responding in the best way we can.”

More than 3,000 residents lost their homes in Dagupan City this week after floodwaters inundated all 31 barangays in the city in the wake of tropical depression Pepeng (international codename Parma).

Disaster officials said the entire city was flooded after water was released from the San Roque Dam.

Aside from Dagupan, other municipalities affected by the opened dam were the municipalities of Rosales, Bautista, Bayambang, Alcala, Sto. Tomas, Uzbitondo, San Carlos City, Lingayen, San Manuel, Tayug, Asingan, Natividad and Sta. Maria.

Three dikes collapsed in the areas of Bacnono, Sison and near Agno River, and a total of 10 dikes were reported damaged.

In scenes reminiscent of tropical storm Ondoy’s (Ketsana) onslaught in Metro Manila, panicked residents fled to their rooftops as floodwaters inundated their homes.

Aerial footage taken in Pangasinan as of Friday afternoon showed some families still staying on their rooftops while awaiting rescue.

Officials said there are no signs that the floods would go down anytime soon. Electrical service has yet to be restored while business establishments and restaurants remain closed as of Friday.

Residents are queueing up to take a bus trip to 18 evacuation centers in the city, the largest of which is the Dagupan Astrodome.

“While there have been zero casualties, the evacuation centers are really filling up with evacuees,” Mayor Al Fernandez said.

Rescue of residents

In Rosales, Pangasinan, 30 out of 37 villages were submerged in murky floodwaters after days of incessant rain brought by “Pepeng.”

Most residents in the flooded barangays evacuated to government shelters early even before the floods hit. The town’s municipal hall has become a virtual island as all roads leading to the town center have been flooded.

Officials said the floods swept away houses and vehicles and even inundated the first floor of a large mall where some 1,000 residents have evacuated.

Philippine Coast Guard officials are currently focused on evacuating residents still trapped on the roofs of their houses.

Some residents admitted that they were informed beforehand to leave their homes because of the possibility of a flood.

“Yes, we were told that there would be flood but we didn’t know that they would be opening the dams,” Reynaldo David, a resident of Rosales, said.

Local authorities expressed concern that the sudden rush of evacuees could stretch their limits in terms of relief goods. According to the Municipal Planning and Development Office, the focus is still on rescuing residents affected by the floods.

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