20 February 2006

UN Disaster Team Being Deployed after Philippines Landslides

GENEVA/NEW YORK, 17 February (OCHA) -- The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is in the process of deploying a United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team to the Philippines, to strengthen the office of the United Nations Resident Coordinator Office in that country, as they respond to the mudslides caused by heavy rains.

At about 10:45 a.m. (02:45 GMT) today, the landslide hit the village of Guinsaugon near the town of St. Bernard on the southern part of the island of Leyte in the Philippines.  The national Red Cross, on the ground since 11 a.m., estimates an unconfirmed 200 dead and 1,500 missing, while the Philippines Office of Civil Defence estimates that up to 2,000 may have been buried by the landslide.  In the whole village, only three houses are still standing.  The rest of the village, including 300 houses and an elementary school, are completely buried in mud.  As many as 251 school children and six teachers are believed to be trapped. Only 4 persons have been retrieved alive so far, according to the International Federation of the Red Cross/Red Crescent's (IFRC) Regional Disaster Management Unit in Bangkok.  According to the Philippines Office of Civil Defence, seven people are currently being treated in hospital.  Government search and rescue teams are at the site, but rain is hampering operations.

OCHA will release today a $50,000 emergency grant to the Office of the Resident Coordinator for emergency response coordination.

The Philippines National Red Cross Society is providing 100 family tents, 300 blankets, five cartons of water purification tablets and 700 body bags.  IFRC has provided SwF 200,000, but it has appealed for SwF 2 million.

An assessment mission to the affected area by Civil Defence authorities will leave tomorrow morning.  A United Nations Country Team member will also join the assessment mission.

OCHA is in close contact with the Philippines Office of Civil Defence, Department of Social Affairs, United Nations Country Team and the OCHA Regional Office in Bangkok.

For further information, please call:  Stephanie Bunker, OCHA-New York, +1 917 367 5126, mobile +1 917 892 1679; Kristen Knutson, OCHA-New York, +1 917 367 9262; Elisabeth Byrs, OCHA-Geneva, +41 22 917 2653, mobile, +41 79 473 4570.

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