Death toll from Philippine rains rises to 12: government

MANILA, Jan 4, 2011 (AFP) - The death toll from landslides and floods in the Philippines rose to 12 on Tuesday as more areas were inundated, officials said.

The southern city of Butuan was swamped and thousands of residents of nearby areas fled to evacuation centres, said regional civil defence chief Blanche Gobenciong.

"This is the worst flooding in 10 years. Butuan City usually does not get flooded because it is protected by a viaduct but this time, it really got hit. The whole of Butuan City is flooded," she told AFP.

"Even the areas previously not touched by floods were affected," she said of the city of 270,000 people.

Rescuers have retrieved the bodies of two gold panners who were caught in a landslide on the outskirts of Butuan, said Gobenciong.

About 4,400 people in Butuan and nearby areas were evacuated, she added.

Ten other people have drowned or been killed by landslides elsewhere since heavy rains began on December 29, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said in its latest bulletin.

Almost 8,000 people remained in government evacuation centres across the country, it added.

At least two other people are also reported missing due to landslides, said the government and the Philippine Red Cross.

Cold air from northeast Asia coming into contact with warmer air in the tropical country have helped cause the heavy rains.

The storms have eased slightly, allowing government agencies to dispatch heavy equipment to clear roads that have been blocked by landslides, said Gobenciong.

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