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Last Updated: Saturday, 20 December, 2003, 14:32 GMT
Many die in Philippines mudslides
As many as 90 people may have died in landslides triggered by heavy rainfall in the Philippines, officials say.

Most of the victims were asleep when the landslides hit the southern towns of San Francisco and Liloan in Leyte province late on Friday.

The Office of Civil Defence said 80 houses had been buried in mud and a big rescue operation was under way.

Disaster officials said a dozen people had also been killed by flash floods in the southern province of Mindanao.

Dozens had been injured and the death toll was expected to rise, the Southern Leyte province governor said.

'Many missing'

"We experienced unusually heavy rains during the last six days," Governor Rosette Lerias said.

She said 13 people had been confirmed dead in San Francisco town, and another 83 were missing and feared dead.

We really have no idea of the magnitude of the disaster
Rosette Lerias
Governor of Southern Leyte

But more than 250 people had been pulled out alive, the governor added.

Rescuers had used shovels and iron bars to dig survivors out of the debris.

In the nearby Liloan town, five people had been killed and at least 17 were buried in the mud, feared dead, the governor said.

An official there quoted survivors as saying they heard a great noise from the mountains, and that shortly afterwards a current of mud swept down on top of them.

Rescue efforts are being hampered by smaller landslides that have blocked roads. Soldiers have been trying to reach the area on foot.

Officials said relief teams would have to use boats to reach parts of the area - only two helicopters were reportedly available.

In Mindanao, at least nine people were killed.

"We really have no idea of the magnitude of the disaster," Governor Lerias said.

The BBC's John McLean in Manila says the Philippines is one of the most disaster-prone areas in the world, and landslides are particularly common.

Frequently, they are the result of typhoons or earthquakes, he says, but human negligence often plays a part.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's John McLean
"Most of the deaths that we know about occurred on one small island"



SEE ALSO:
Typhoon batters southern Asia
24 Jul 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Deadly storms hit Philippines
21 Dec 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Philippines storms kill 14
08 Jul 02  |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: The Philippines
04 Dec 03  |  Country profiles
Nature's lethal weapons
18 Sep 00  |  Science/Nature


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