Philippine floods recede but death, damage tolls mount

Floodwaters from tropical storm Parma receded in much of the northern Philippines on Saturday but the toll from heavy rain rose further as more bodies were recovered, officials said.

A total of 265 people were confirmed dead in landslides and flooding caused by Parma in the past two days, civil defence and local officials said.

This brings the death toll from two weeks of killer storms to at least 602 with about 301,000 still crammed into makeshift evacuation centres since tropical storm Ketsana struck two weeks ago, the civil defence office said.

Civil defence spokesman Ernesto Torres said that among the latest fatalities were three firemen who were carrying out rescue operations at the landslide site.

In the northern Mountain Province, which had been hit hard by landslides, Governor Maximo Dalog made an appeal for medicine, food and sniffing dogs, "so we can find the bodies."

Dalog said there were 35 dead in his province alone with at least 16 others still missing after heavy rain brought on by Parma caused huge landslides that buried houses late Thursday to Friday.

The mountain resort city of Baguio remained inaccessible as rockslides had cut off all major roads, said Mayor Peter Rey Bautista.

"The past two days have been very hard for the whole city and surrounding areas. But we are finally seeing the sunshine," he said in a television interview.

In the farming region of Pangasinan to the southwest of the provinces where the landslides occurred, floodwaters that had swamped the area had largely gone down but they left a sea of mud that made travel difficult.

Dagupan, a major city in Pangasinan, was still flooded, with people forced to wade through waters, while roads remained impassable to small vehicles.

Parma, which first hit the country as a typhoon on October 3, sat off the northern Philippines for a week before dumping huge rains on the region on Thursday and Friday.

It finally moved away late Friday and was charted 250 kilometres 155 miles northwest of Dagupan on Saturday, slowly moving west into the South China Sea, the government weather station said.

Parma had hit just a week after Ketsana struck the capital and surrounding areas, causing massive floods. Some low-lying areas remain flooded two weeks later.

Defence Secretary Gilberto Teodoro was quoted by ABS-CBN television as saying he was halting offensive operations against communist insurgents in the south so the army could concentrate on rescue and relief efforts in the north.

The succession of storms has overwhelmed government resources and forced the Philippines to ask for more foreign aid.