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Death toll from Philippine rains rises to 25

MANILA, January 5, 2011 (AFP) – The death toll from landslides and floods in the Philippines rose to 25 on Wednesday, with those trying to profit from the disaster by salvaging flotsam becoming victims themselves, officials said.

Although major highways are now open after landslide rubble was cleared away, large areas of the country’s south are still covered with floodwaters, said regional civil defence chief Blanche Gobenciong.

“About 70 percent of our region is still flooded,” Gobenciong told AFP by telephone from Butuan city.

The nationwide toll doubled overnight as heavy rains fell again after a brief respite on Tuesday, and Gobenciong said some of the seven dead in and around Butuan were trying to salvage floating logs to sell to lumber firms.

“Floods are an opportunity for them. They want flooding. They will try to get the logs floating in the river without thinking about the risks,” she said.

A majority of the dead had drowned, with at least five others killed in landslides, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said.

More than 8,000 people displaced by rising floodwaters remain at evacuation centres across the country, it added.

There is a risk of further floods and landslides with rains expected to continue for the rest of the week, warned chief government forecaster Graciano Yumul.

Cold air from northeast Asia coming into contact with warmer air in the tropical country have helped cause the heavy rains which have battered the southern island of Mindanao and other parts of the country since late-December.

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