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World - Asia/Pacific

Philippine floods kill 20, 'calamity' declared

An aerial view of the overflowing Agusan River  
February 9, 1999
Web posted at: 1:54 a.m. EST (0654 GMT)

MANILA, Philippines (CNN) -- Philippine President Joseph Estrada declared a 'state of calamity' in four southern provinces Monday after flash floods killed 20 people and displaced more than 110,000 families.

Estrada's declaration releases funds to local governments to repair damaged bridges, highways and other infrastructure and allows residents to borrow money from state-controlled pension funds.

Landslides and collapsed bridges have isolated some towns, and wide areas of Butuan City, the largest in the region, were without power.

Caraga region Senior Police Superintendent Fritz Quinola said nine people drowned in Agusan del Sur while two died of diarrhea caused by infected water.

In Agusan del Norte, where officials reported floodwaters up to ten feet deep, five people drowned, two were electrocuted and two children died when buried under landslides, Quinola said.

Three people were reported missing and 16 were injured.

A group of evacuees  

Rains in the Caraga region on Mindanao island had not let up, although floods started to recede in some parts, officials said.

The National Disaster Coordinating Council said damage totaled 123 million pesos ($3.2 million) in the four rice and corn-growing provinces that make up the region -- Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur.

The operations operations director of the National Disaster Coordinating Council, Frank Castillo, said the flooding was an effect of heavy rain that began early this month.

"On February 4, we had a 24-hour downpour. It was the worst flooding (in Agusan del Sur) since 1981," Dante Villacrusis, provincial administrator said by telephone.

"At its worst, all 14 towns (in the province) were affected," he said, adding that flood waters reached the rooftop of the two-story house of one local mayor.

Defense Secretary faults logging in floods

Defense Secretary Orlando Mercado blamed a lack of forest cover for the flash floods.

"Caraga is a region that has been the center of logging activity in the past," he told a news conference. "These are the consequences of the abuse of our forest resources."

Mercado said other deforested areas might suffer the same problems, which he also linked to the current La Nina weather pattern -- the weather phenomenon associated with strong rains and floods in southeast Asia.

Reuters contributed to this report.


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