Thursday, November 25, 2004

More News

from 2 TYPHOONS Violent 'Violeta,' 'Unding' leave 171 dead or missing.

Aurora deaths

The death toll in the flashfloods and landslides spawned by Violeta in at least three towns in Aurora rose to 24. Officials have declared the province under a state of calamity.

Mayor Jaime Ylarde of Dingalan town said the number of fatalities was expected to increase as more bodies pinned by logs and debris were being recovered on Wednesday in his town.

Board Member Sherwin Taay said the provincial board declared Aurora under a state of calamity.

The fatality count rose after the four Dingalan victims who were taken to a hospital in Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija province, died on Tuesday night, Ylarde said. At least two more bodies were recovered in the town on Wednesday.

Worst hit

Aurora Governor Bellaflor Angara-Castillo said the initial list showed that at least 18 people -- 15 in Dingalan, two in Ma. Aurora town and one in San Luis town -- died.

Reports said more than 4,000 people had sought refuge at the Dingalan municipal hall, elementary and high school buildings and churches.

Except for the worst hit village of Paltik, electricity had been restored in Dingalan's 11 villages on Tuesday night, Ylarde said.

The only road linking Dingalan to Nueva Ecija remained blocked by rocks and soil, but personnel of the Department of Public Works and Highways began clearing the debris.

The municipal board placed the town under a state of calamity.

Illegal logging

Officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Central Luzon blamed massive deforestation and illegal logging in the town for the flashfloods and landslides.

Regidor de Leon, DENR regional executive director, said a case for illegal logging had been filed against Jackson Padiernos on Sept. 26, 2001. Padiernos is a son of former Dingalan Mayor Zenaida Padiernos.

De Leon said a court in Cabanatuan had denied the younger Padiernos' motion to dismiss the case.

The DENR seized Padiernos' truck and its cargo of 11,155.31 board feet of lumber when he could not show permits for tree cutting and hauling, De Leon said.

But Padiernos' sister, Dingalan councilor Mahalla Cabanquil, said her brother was only an accessory in the case. The prime suspect, Cabanquil said, was a certain Gatdula.

De Leon said the DENR had not issued a timber licensing agreement, an integrated forestry management agreement or other permits in Dingalan.

The environmental watchdog Multi-Sectoral Group of Aurora stepped up calls for a total log ban in the province.

"In Tuesday's incident, Mother Nature spoke to us. The plunder of the forests must be stopped. It has gotten to a point when lives are killed and are always put in peril," said Joey Estriber, MSAG secretary.

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