43 killed in ComVal flashflood, landslides

Posted at 12/04/2012 8:16 PM | Updated as of 12/05/2012 8:31 AM

MANILA, Philippines (7th UPDATE) – At least 43 people were killed while 24 others were injured in flashfloods and landslides in New Bataan, Compostela Valley on Tuesday, initial reports said.

Most of the victims drowned in floods, while some were hit by debris and falling trees caused by strong winds from typhoon "Pablo."

The fatalities included children and infants.

Reports said the flashfloods occurred Tuesday morning, but the bodies were retrieved in the afternoon because rescuers had difficulty entering the area due to impassable roads.

According to New Bataan Mayor Lorenzo Balbin, the victims are from the landslide-prone areas of Barangay Andap and Poblacion.

Flood waters reportedly rushed from the mountain ranges, explaining the thick mud covering most parts of the town.

Authorities suspect that more bodies will be found, but retrieval operations were suspended Tuesday night due to lack of visibility.

The operations continued Wednesday morning as at least six more people were reported missing.

The bodies of the fatalities were brought to the New Bataan municipal hall and Philippine Red Cross volunteers have started preparations to bring them to the hospital.

The entire town of New Bataan also does not have power and its communication lines are fluctuating.

Trees were also toppled by the strong winds that lashed the province upon the typhoon's landfall.

Missing soldiers

Col. Angelito de Leon, brigade commander of the 1001st Infantry Brigade, said around 30 soldiers of the 66th Infantry Battalion were among those affected by the floods and landslide.

One of the fatalities was identified as a certain Sgt. Olivarez, who died when the flashflood struck a temporary military command post under the Charlie Company in New Bataan around 3 p.m.

Olivarez and others in the command post were washed away by the flood, according to Benito Ramos, executive director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).

Nine other soldiers remain missing.

The soldiers were camped in the temporary detachment to assist in the rescue operations when they were swept by raging waters.

Death toll

Compostela Valley Governor Arturo Uy, meanwhile, said he expects the death toll to increase because all 16 barangays of New Bataan are submerged in floods.

He said he has requested choppers from authorities to assist stranded residents.

He also appealed for relief goods for the affected families.

"Nanawagan ako na whatever assistance na mabigay ng mga tao, relief goods or any retrieval equipment, we will appreciate that," he told ANC.

A 2-year-old baby was also reportedly killed in New Bataan, but authorities have yet to verify this. - reports from Vina Araneta, ABS-CBN Regional Network Group; Jeff Canoy, ABS-CBN News; Edwin Sevidal and Dennis Datu, dzMM