Philippines storm brings more floods, landslides

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Two people were killed as another tropical storm swept across the Philippines on Wednesday, triggering landslides in the mountainous north and dumping more heavy rain on the flood-battered capital.

Tropical Storm Kai-tak hit the northeast of the main island of Luzon before dawn, packing powerful winds and dumping up to 35 millimetres (1.3 inches) of rain an hour on a vast farming region, the state weather bureau said.

Areas to the south that were trying to recover from devastating floods last week, including Manila, also endured strong rain, prompting authorities to warn residents in low-lying areas of the capital to be ready to evacuate.

The worst-hit areas on Wednesday morning were four small northern farming towns, where water reached neck-deep in some areas and landslides cut off a major highway, said Melchito Castro, civil defence chief in the region.

"We have been experiencing really heavy rains since last night, and our rescuers have evacuated some residents," Castro told AFP by phone.

Two people died in the far north on Wednesday, including a 47-year-old man who drowned in a swollen river, adding to the 95 deaths in and around Manila during last week's floods, the civil defence office said.

Norma Talosig, the civil defence chief for northeastern Luzon, said authorities there were closely watching the Cagayan river, the country's largest river basin, amid fears it could overflow.

At more than 500 kilometres (310 miles) long, the heavily silted Cagayan river is the longest in the country and cuts across four northeastern agricultural provinces.

"The water level is rising, but it has not yet reached critical levels," Talosig told AFP.

"The danger is that when it does overflow, it will flood hundreds of hectares of agricultural production areas and communities."

More heavy rains were expected in the northeast on Wednesday, she said. "When the storm's outer bands hits us, it's like a whip that's deadlier," she said.

Rain was also falling in and around Manila on the other side of the Sierra Madre mountain range to the southwest, where more than 300,000 people were still in evacuation shelters following last week's floods.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said many low-lying farming areas near Manila remained flooded, and with the fresh rain there was little chance of the waters receding anytime soon.

Council chief Benito Ramos also said Kai-tak had not yet caused any major fresh floods in Manila, 80 percent of which was submerged last week amid an intense 48-hour deluge triggered by another tropical storm,

But he said people in coastal areas of Manila and others in dangerous areas should be prepared to leave their homes if the rains worsened.

Local governments declared school holidays in some areas of Manila on Wednesday because of the heavy rains, while several domestic flights were delayed or cancelled due to bad visibility.

Weather forecasters said Kai-Tak was expected to move across Luzon on Wednesday, and exit into the South China Sea towards Hong Kong on Thursday morning.

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