Quake aftershocks, now flash flooding

Philippines, hit hard by aftershocks, now plagued by flash flooding

MANILA, Philippines | February 10, 2012

The central Philippines, hit by an earthquake that killed dozens and pounded by hundreds of aftershocks all week, was threatened by flash flooding Friday.

Heavy rains lashed the Negros province, which took the brunt of Monday's 6.7-magnitude offshore earthquake, hampering the efforts of rescuers looking for bodies and survivors buried under landslides and toppled homes in Negros and neighboring provinces.

The Philippine army placed the death toll at 48 but the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council put the official toll at 34, the Philippine Star reported Friday.

The Philippine News Agency, quoting the Negros provincial government, said as of Wednesday at least 50 people remained missing.

The worst hit towns in Negros located in the Visayas island chain in central Philippines were Guihulngan, Jimalalud, La Libertad, Tayasan, Ayungon, Manjuyod and Bindoy.

There has been much damage in the quake-hit regions with bridges made impassable, roads crumbled, hundreds of families with no homes and essential services badly hit. Since Monday, more than 1,000 aftershocks, some strong, have terrorized the survivors.

Speedy repair of bridges and roads remained a priority to bring in heavy equipment for cleanup and rescue operations and to transport relief supplies.

Now with the onset of rains, the situation could worsen.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration said flash floods and landslides threatened the region, including Negros, the Star reported.

Disaster council Executive Director Benito Ramos said the rains and aftershocks also posed risks to rescue teams, which were forced to temporarily suspend their efforts.

"It [the suspension of search and rescue operations] is only temporary because of the rains. Aftershocks are also being experienced. It was dangerous. Our responders might get buried," Ramos was quoted as saying. He said the operations would resume Friday if the situation improved, although hopes of finding anyone alive in the rubble were fading.

The government of Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III sought to contain criticism that not enough was being done for the victims.

The president's office said the government would do all it could to save human lives and help the survivors, the Philippine News Agency reported.

"You have to take into consideration the physical difficulties there," a presidential spokesman said.

Aquino observed his 52nd birthday Wednesday visiting disaster areas in Negros and overseeing relief and reconstruction operations, the report said.

2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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