‘Reming’ mudslides buries 400 in Albay

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — HUNDREDS of people were feared dead after mudflows unleashed by super typhoon “Reming” cascaded down Mt. Mayon and swamped at least eight villages in Albay province.

The Philippine National Red Cross said at least 400 people are confirmed dead and 96 missing.

All the dead are in Albay, said PNRC spokesperson Teresa Arguelles.

She said the number of fatalities could go higher as rescuers reach places that were isolated by heavy rains and winds.

Early yesterday, Albay Governor Fernando Gonzales said at least 108 bodies have been recovered.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III told reporters he received unconfirmed reports that 200 died in the mudslides.

The supertyphoon, packing maximum winds of 150 kilometers per hour, hit Albay overnight, dumping heavy rains that mixed with volcanic ash on the slopes of Mayon volcano.

Gonzales confirmed earlier reports by provincial relief officer Cedric Daep that the bodies of the victims were retrieved in the towns and villages of Daraga, Busay, and Santo Domingo.

“We’re still recovering some more,” the governor told reporters in a phone interview. “We are getting reports that there are more and more casualties.”

“These are very big and very heavy mudflows.It buried many houses,” Gonzales said when asked about the situation in his province following the mudslides.

The mudflows were formed after rains washed down sediments and boulders deposited from previous eruptions on the Mayon slopes, said Renato Solidum, director of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology.

“These are very old deposits, not from the 2006 eruption, which were mobilized by the rains,” Solidum told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo.

Daep said mudslides reached as high as the rooftops in the nearby town of Daraga.

“We do not have exact figures but we are looking at about 200 dead… principally in the vicinity of Mayon volcano,” Glenn Rabonza, executive officer of the National Disaster Coordinating Council, said.

“This will probably rise a little bit more,” as rescue teams enter into areas which are now blocked by flooding and debris, he said. He warned that the toll could shoot up even further amid unconfirmed reports of large numbers of dead in the village of Padang.

Jukes Nunez of the Provincial Disaster Coordinating Council said about 30 people were injured by boulders and roofing materials in Padang and taken to hospitals.

Elsewhere in the Philippines, at least one person was killed in the town of Canaman after being hit by a piece of metal roofing blown off by the typhoon, the civil defense office said.

In Calapan, Oriental Mindoro, local officials reported at least three people, two of them children, were killed after a tree and an electric post fell on them at the height of the storm. Several people were also injured, they added.

Rescue work hampered

Rescue efforts were being hampered by storm damage which has knocked out electricity, telephone lines and even water services throughout much of the Bicol peninsula which includes Legazpi and Daraga, according to an NDCC report.

Regional police head Chief Supt. Victor Boco said search and rescue operations were going on but added that many people had already been evacuated. The civil defense office said more than 13,900 people had been evacuated in the Bicol region.

The military was waiting for the weather to clear to bring helicopters into the affected area. Legazpi City’s airport was shut down as debris littered the runway and the windows and part of the roof of terminal had been destroyed by the storm.

The Energy Regulatory Commission yesterday mobilized all power agencies including electric cooperatives in Luzon to help restore power in areas affected by typhoon “Reming.”

Energy Secretary Raphael Lotilla said the National Transmission Corp., National Power Corp. and National Electrification Administration and other power distribution utilities and electric cooperatives were directed to restore power in Bicol region and Southern Tagalog which were hardest hit by the typhoon.

Transmission line crews and power restoration equipments have been deployed in the two regions.