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October 12, 2009

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Ravaged Philippines needs food, coffins

UNITED States military helicopters ferried tons of aid yesterday to a northern Philippines mountain region facing shortages of food, gasoline and coffins after back-to-back typhoons killed more than 600 in the country.
Four Marine CH-46 helicopters flew to Baguio city, which along with nearby provinces was devastated by storm-triggered landslides that have blocked three key access roads to the area, isolating the upland region in recent days.
Workers with bulldozers partly cleared one road yesterday, allowing cars but not relief trucks to pass, disaster-response agency spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Ernesto Torres said.
Tropical Depression Parma blew out of the country's mountainous north late on Saturday, allowing US troops to start airlifting food aid to Baguio.
About 700 Marines and sailors were on hand to help out.
The helicopters flew to northern San Fernando township, where they picked up about 10 tons of food that was delivered to Baguio.
The floods and landslides killed at least 53 people in Baguio, a summer tourist destination 210 kilometers north of Manila known for its cool climate.
Rescuers yesterday continued to dig through a huge mound of mud in Crescencia village in search of more than 10 residents who were still missing, Baguio Police Chief Agrifino Javier said.
While the weather has cleared, the city of more than 300,000 people faced dwindling food and gasoline supplies.
Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo flew in by helicopter yesterday to check the situation.
"There is nearly zero gasoline supply now, and we're running low on food," Javier told The Associated Press, adding many foreign tourists were among those stranded in the city.
In nearby Benguet province, at least 20 people remain missing, provincial police chief Loreto Espineli said. Apart from shortage of gasoline, the province has run out of coffins. Volunteers were busy making wooden coffins for six bodies found in Benguet's capital town of La Trinidad.
With large expanses of land still under water, officials said damage to agriculture and infrastructure reached US$312 million.


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