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Survivors Rescued from Pinatubo Floods and Avalanches

August 31, 1992

MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ Helicopters plucked survivors from their roofs Monday after three days of floods and avalanches from the Mount Pinatubo volcano cut off some villages north of Manila.

At least nine people have been killed and nearly 10,000 have been evacuated to schools, churches and government refugee centers, officials said.

Police said 45 hungry and rain-soaked people were rescued, a dozen by helicopters and the rest by trucks and navy frogmen in rubber boats.

Vice Mayor Reynaldo Candelaria of Mabalacat said 212 people remained stranded on a former camp site of a construction company, which has become a virtual island, in the nearby village of San Pedro.

In the village of Tabon, about 1,000 houses have been completely covered by avalanches of volcanic debris, Candelaria said.

Mabalacat, about 50 miles north of Manila, was one of two dozen towns that remained under water after monsoon rains, the Office of Civil Defense reported.

The rains loosened tons of volcanic debris from Mount Pinatubo’s June 1991 eruption, triggering avalanches. Avalanches and floods also have destroyed roads and bridges, clogged rivers and hampered travel to northern provinces of the Philippines’ main island, Luzon.

Scientists say more than 6 cubic kilometers of debris - enough to cover Manhattan more than five times - remain piled on the slopes of Mount Pinatubo from the eruption.

That means the threat of avalanches will remain for several years, according to government engineers.

On Monday, Public Works Secretary Jose de Jesus said the only solution was a mass evacuation of residents in avalanche-threatened areas.

Meanwhile, Pinatubo remains active. On Monday, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology reported the mountain shook with 491 low-frequency earthquakes in the previous 24 hours, indicating rising magma.

The institute said Pinatubo is quietly oozing lava, forming a dome in the crater of the volcano.

The eruption last year killed 700 people and forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes.

Update hourly