[PHOTO AT LEFT - An aerial shot from a Philippine Air Force helicopter shows heavy flooding affecting an area in Dolores, Eastern Samar.]

MANILA, FEBRUARY 23, 2008 (STAR) The government is flying relief goods to flood-stricken residents of Eastern Samar today.

Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr., National Disaster Coordinating Council chairman, will escort the relief goods from the GMA Kapuso Foundation to Borongan town aboard a C-130 plane.

President Arroyo is also flying today to Dolores town in Eastern Samar to personally assess the ongoing relief operations.

At least 21 people have been killed and more than 294,000 displaced by floods and landslides in the Visayas and Mindanao.

The Red Cross reported 15 dead and four missing in the Visayas and Bicol.

Another six people died in Mindanao after heavy rains this week.

As of yesterday, the NDCC placed the estimated damage to agriculture and infrastructures at P797 million.

NDCC records also showed the severe weather condition had affected 106,455 families or 514,862 people in 896 barangays from 14 provinces in MIMAROPA, Bicol, Western and Eastern Visayas and Northern Mindanao.

Most of the dead in the Visayas were caused by flashfloods while those in Mindanao were killed by a landslide.

The entire province of Albay in Bicol, as well as the eastern half of Samar island and one town in Capiz, have been placed under a state of emergency.

Albay is now under a state of calamity, as are the towns of Buhi in Camarines Sur and Vinzons in Camarines Norte.

Albay Gov. Joey Salceda placed the province under a state of calamity after an emergency meeting with the members of the Provincial Disaster Coordinating Council Thursday afternoon. He ordered the evacuation of thousands of residents living along river channels and at the foot of mountain slopes, especially those on the slopes of Mayon Volcano.

Salceda said 12 landslides occurred in Barangays Dapdap, Bariis, Mayong and Sugod in Tiwi town; Sitio Datag in Barangay San Jose in Malilipot town; Salvacion, Alimsog, Buhatan, Kalayukay in Sto. Domingo; Barangay Inang Maharang in Manito; Barangay Kimantong in Daraga and Barangay Mataas in Bacacay town.

Salceda dispatched one rubber boat to Polangui and Oas to ferry residents who were isolated due to flooding. M-35 trucks from the 901st Brigade were dispatched to Libon, Daraga, Camalig, Sto. Domingo and Legazpi City at the height of the flooding Thursday evening.

Despite the sudden stop of continuous rain yesterday morning, large areas in the region remain under water while landslides cut off traffic along the national highway.

In Albay, the Ligao-Tabaco road was closed to traffic after a spillway at Barangay Togbon overflowed. Similarly, the Paclas section of the Libon-pantao road network; the Libon-Bacolod-San Vicente-Marocmoc-Buga road network; and Pio Duran road are not passable.

Cedric Daep, head of the provincial disaster management office, said that Manito is now isolated due to landslides, while some 10 meters of a road in Barangay Malobago was washed out due to heavy rainfall.

“Thousands of farmers in the rice producing towns of Libon, Oas and Polangui will be economically affected since thousands of hectares are now under water,” he said.

The weather bureau said a low-pressure area and the tail-end of a cold front had combined to bring unseasonal heavy rains over the past week.

“We have more relief goods but we could not accommodate much more because the C-130 could not land in a Borongan airstrip with heavy load as the runway is very short,” said Lt. Col. Joslito Kakilala, of the Department of National Defense’s Office of Public Affairs.

Government and non-government organizations have already sent a total of P4.1 million in relief assistance to residents in the affected regions, especially in Eastern Samar.

Heavy rains due to low pressure area triggered massive flooding not only in the Visayas but in Northern Mindanao, Bicol and MIMAROPA regions.

Most of the fatalities either drowned in flood waters or were buried alive in landslides.

In Bicol, 21,350 families were forcibly evacuated the other day from flood and lahar-prone areas.

The Office of Civil Defense made an aerial survey yesterday of areas hit by landslides and determine the effects of the flooding in Albay, Sorsogon and Camarines Sur.

Soldiers and aid workers rushed relief supplies yesterday to tens of thousands of people forced from their homes.

After drenching Eastern Samar, heavy rains carried by a low pressure system moved west to Bicol, where authorities ordered the evacuation of about 70,000 people.

Many of those evacuated in Bicol lived on the slopes of Mayon Volcano.

Officials fear rains and floods could trigger volcanic mudslides, which have buried villages in the past.

Schools in many areas were closed, bridges were washed away and dikes collapsed as swollen rivers overflowed.

In Bicol, the toll from floods and landslides rose to 12 yesterday.

Thursday’s rainfall was the heaviest after seven days of continuous rains due to the tail end of the cold front and the lingering La Niña phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean.– Jaime Laude, Celso Amo

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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