Thousands flee more floods in southern Philippines

Residents ride on a makeshift raft along a flooded portion of a road in Butuan city in the southern Philippine island of Mindanao January 16, 2014.

MANILA - Thousands of people are fleeing rising floodwaters in a fresh round of evacuations in the southern Philippines, officials said Friday as the death toll from a week of bad weather rose to 34.

At least 8,000 people fled villages along the flooded banks of the Agusan river on Mindanao island in the past 24 hours, said John Uayan, operations official of the civil defence office in the region.

"The rains come to this region around this time, but this year has been terrible," Uayan told AFP.

The fresh round of evacuations brought the number of people temporarily sheltering in schools and government buildings in the Agusan region to nearly 59,000, he said, adding some have been there since heavy rains began on January 10.

Parts of Butuan city, the regional capital, and more than 200 villages and districts lining the banks of the Agusan are flooded, he added.

Floods and landslides unleashed by heavy rains killed 15 people in the Agusan region, including a woman who drowned on Thursday, Uayan said.

Nineteen other people were killed earlier in the week along Mindanao's east coast, including areas still recovering from Typhoon Bopha that left 1,900 people dead or missing in December 2012, the civil defence office in Manila said Friday.

About 155,000 other people were staying in evacuation centres in these areas, it added.

State weather forecaster Joey Figuracion said a weather system offshore that had earlier threatened to become a full-pledged tropical storm had caused the heavier-than-usual rains over Mindanao.

Surigao city, on its northeast tip, got more than 267 millimetres (10.5 inches) of rainfall in one 24-hour stretch in the previous weekend, or nearly half a month's worth of rain, he told AFP.

He said Surigao and the Agusan region are expected to be hit by more heavy rains from late Friday with another low-pressure area drifting south toward it from the northeast.

"There's a bigger chance that this one will turn into a tropical storm," Figuracion said.

The heavy weather has disrupted local aviation and shipping, with several dozen domestic flights cancelled over the past week and two ferries and a cargo vessel running aground off the central islands of Cebu and Bohol on Wednesday and Thursday.

No casualties were reported in the maritime accidents and nearly 400 passengers and crew are being transferred to other vessels, a coast guard report said.

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