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Asians recovering from devastating floods, but more rain being forecast

HDN | 8/7/1999 12:00:00 AM |

Manila, Philippines - The AP Much of Asia struggled to recover on Friday from several weeks of devastating floods that killed hundreds of people and left millions homeless, but new rains threatened parts of the region. In the Philippines, hundreds of volunteers joined rescue workers in the search for 43 people still missing in the rubble of a housing project toppled on Tuesday by a monsoon-triggered landslide. Search teams had recovered 32 bodies from the hillside townhouses in Antipolo City, east of

Manila, Philippines - The AP

Much of Asia struggled to recover on Friday from several weeks of devastating floods that killed hundreds of people and left millions homeless, but new rains threatened parts of the region.

In the Philippines, hundreds of volunteers joined rescue workers in the search for 43 people still missing in the rubble of a housing project toppled on Tuesday by a monsoon-triggered landslide.

Search teams had recovered 32 bodies from the hillside townhouses in Antipolo City, east of Manila, bringing to 92 the number of people confirmed dead in four days of torrential rains in the central Philippines.

In South Korea, 43 were reported dead and 21 still missing from strong rains along the border with North Korea that caused rivers to overflow and washed grenades and mines away from military units guarding the demilitarized zone that separates the two nations.

North Korea's state-run news media reported that the already famine-stricken country suffered "no small loss of human lives" and damage to farm land, but did not specify figures.

International Red Cross officials said at least 42 people were killed and 94 others badly injured, and warned of worsening food shortages.

South Korean weather officials predicted more rains this week as another tropical storm approached.

China, which suffers major floods each year, said 725 people have died from flooding since June, many of them along the Yangtze River. The Civil Affairs Ministry said 5.5 million people in 23 provinces had been evacuated and 11.3 million hectares (28 million acres) of cropland inundated.

The toll, however, was considerably less than last year, when the worst flooding in 44 years killed 4,150 people in areas along the Yangtze and in the northeast.

Less rain has fallen this year, and the government has spent heavily on improving dikes and on moving tens of thousands of people out of flood-prone areas.

Nevertheless, aid officials in China warned of the danger of waterborne diseases, and Red Cross workers were distributing water-purification chemicals for about 1 million people.

"It's pretty major as it stands now," said Jim Robertson, Beijing representative for the International Federation of Red Cross Societies.

In Southeast Asia, predictions by weather forecasters of continuing monsoon rains, which hit the region every year, raised fears of more flooding just as residents were starting to clean up.

Downpours dumped 550 millimeters (22 inches) of rain on Vietnam's impoverished Binh Thuan province, swamping large swaths of land and causing heavy losses. The floods, the worst in the region in 47 years, killed 28 and left more than 5,000 people homeless, the provincial government said.

A prison inmate in the province was credited with rescuing 11 people, including seven children.

The toll throughout Vietnam was 37 dead and nearly $20 million in damage, officials said.

In Thailand, the death toll rose to six on Friday from flooding over the past week, with severe damage to agriculture in provinces along the Gulf of Thailand. More than 40,000 acres (16,000 hectares) of fruit orchards were damaged.

Cambodia reported the deaths of four children in a flash flood. Its Cabinet met to devise emergency plans in case heavy rains cause the swollen Mekong River, which runs through Phnom Penh and five eastern provinces, to overflow.

Many townspeople, surprised by the quickness of the recent flooding, were stranded on their roofs and lost livestock. The Mekong last flooded its banks in Cambodia in 1996.

In the Philippines, floodwaters remained high in parts of central Luzon, north of Manila, although they receded in some towns. Long sections of highways in the region were clogged with vehicles unable to proceed because of the floods.

In Manila and its suburbs, workers began clearing mud and debris from streets and drainage canals. Residents who fled to government evacuation centers began returning home and some schools resumed classes after a four-day suspension.

More than 70,000 people were forced to evacuate their homes in metropolitan Manila and 13 nearby provinces, officials said.

( $=426.819 TL Official Rate)

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