Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Friday, August 07, 2009

floods kill 2 French citizens, 8 others

(AP) - Two French tourists were among at least 10 people killed when heavy rains collapsed an earthen dike and fed landslides and floods that deluged towns and villages in the northern Philippines, officials said Friday.

A group of French and South Koreans were traveling on Mount Pinatubo on Thursday in three vehicles when a landslide blocked their path, trapping one of the cars, said Tarlac provincial Gov. Victor Yap.

Three French nationals were swept away in a flash flood and the bodies of two of them were recovered early Friday. One remains missing, Yap said.

A Filipino guide also was killed, he said. The rest of the group was safe.

"They said the water suddenly rose and they were swept away by strong currents," Yap told The Associated Press.

The officials earlier identified two of the dead as Canadians but later said they were mistaken.

French Embassy Consul Arnold Rayar said he spoke with the survivors and they confirmed they were French.

The worst-hit area was Zambales province, west of Manila on the foothills of Mount Pinatubo.

More than 1,000 residents of Botolan town sheltered overnight at a school after days of pounding rain caused a 21-yard (20-meter) breach in the Pinatubo dike, sending the floodwaters as high as roofs, said regional police chief Leo Nilo dela Cruz.

A local tribal chief, Carling Dumulot, estimated that some 12,000 had evacuatedtheir homes and said loosened trees carried by water and mud were slamming against houses and hindering evacuation efforts.

Three villages were completely under water, he said.

"There are many residents who spent the night shivering on the rooftops," said dela Cruz.

An air force helicopter plucked trapped people from trees and rooftops.

At least two died in Botolan and surrounding areas, Zambales Gov. Amor Deloso said. The government closed all schools in the province and declared a state of emergency.

"Virtually all areas in the province had experienced flooding," he said.

In Tarlac province, on Pinatubo's northeastern side, police chief Rudu Lacadin said authorities recovered another two bodies.

Landslides in the northern Cordillera mountains separately killed three siblings aged 7-13 in Baguio city, said regional disaster agency chief Olive Luces. Their parents escaped, he said.

Six Chinese tourists from Hong Kong and four Filipino crewmen were rescued Thursday after their boat capsized because of big waves off Verde Island south of Manila, said coast guard spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Armand Balilo.

Monsoon rains have saturated the mountainous northern Philippines, the central Visayas islands and the southern Mindanao region since last month, killing at least 20 people.

In 1991, Mount Pinatubo exploded in one of the world's biggest volcanic eruptions of the 20th century, killing about 800 people and closing down the U.S.-run Clark Air Base.

Millions of tons of volcanic debris on the mountain slopes pose a constant danger during heavy rains. The Associated Press.

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