Storm 5 in Philippines, heads for Vietnam

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MANILA, Sep 30 (Reuters) Tropical depression Lekima swept off the Philippines today, leaving five people dead and four missing, a disaster official said, warning that floods and landslides could cause more havoc.

Anthony Golez, deputy chief of the civil defence office, said thousands of people were marooned in the north of the country because of damaged roads and bridges, and flooded homes and crops.

''Our rescue workers, using bare hands, pulled out five bodies under tonnes of mud and rain water,'' Golez told reporters.

He added that emergency teams were searching for four more people believed to be buried by a mudslide that thundered through houses on the slopes of the Cordillera mountains in Ifugao province yesterday.

''One resident was also brought to a nearby hospital after he was found half-buried in mud and rainwater.'' With winds of up to 55 kilometres per hour, Lekima has moved onto the South China Sea and was estimated to be 670 km west of Zambales in northwestern hilippines by Monday, and moving westwards at 19 kilometres per hour towards the coast of Vietnam.

Yesterday, Lekima weakened after making landfall on the main Luzon island, but brought heavy rains to the country.

The weather bureau has lowered all storm alerts, but advised people in low-lying areas and near mountain slopes to take extra caution against flashfloods and landslides.

Golez said most roads in the northern Philippines remained closed, hampering efforts by soldiers to deliver food, water and warm blankets to nearly 1,500 people evacuated in Kalinga and Ifugao provinces.

REUTERS SZ AS1322

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