Philippine mountain fire forces hundreds to flee

MANILA (AFP) - A raging fire on the Philippines highest mountain forced hundreds of people to flee from the peak by foot, officials said Sunday (March 27).

Firefighters dug ditches that were 2m deep in their battle to contain the blaze, which began Saturday afternoon and was ongoing 24 hours later, to stop it from spreading on the tourist hotspot of Mount Apo.

There were no reported injuries and nearly all of the 1,000 tourists who were on the mountain were evacuated by noon on Sunday, provincial disaster official Harry Camoro told AFP.

Mount Apo towers over the main southern island of Mindanao, at 3,142m above sea level, and is home to forest reserves and the breeding ground for the Philippines' national bird, the endangered monkey-eating eagle.

It is common for searing summer temperatures to start fires on the mountain, Camoro said, however the cause of the blaze had not been determined.

Air force helicopters were deployed on Sunday to survey the damage, he added.