Race to find Philippine survivors

Emergency workers are racing to rescue survivors of a storm in the Philippines which killed at least 400 people, as another storm approaches. 

More than 150 others are still missing after devastating flooding and mudslides hit eastern areas. 

Many of the casualties were caused by the collapse of a disaster shelter. 

The authorities say eight soldiers searching for flood victims to the north of the capital, Manila, have been killed by communist rebels. 

Blocked roads and rushing water are hampering efforts to reach survivors, after three heavy storms in the Philippines in a week. 

Thousands of people have been left homeless, or stranded on rooftops.

Hundreds of soldiers were ordered to carry relief supplies on foot to devastated towns on the eastern coast as roads were cut off and bad weather grounded the country's few rescue helicopters. 

Most of the dead were drowned, buried by mudslides or electrocuted on the main island of Luzon. 

Rivers of dirt-brown water swept away houses, overturned cars and smashed bridges. In the worst-hit areas - the towns of Real, Infanta and General Nakar, in Quezon province - only roof-tops and tall trees could be seen above the flood waters. 

These heavy rains followed two storms last week elsewhere in the country that left as many as 160 people dead or missing. 

Erosion blamed 

Typhoon Nanmadol, even stronger than the storms to hit in the last few days, is approaching the islands and is expected to hit the east coast late on Thursday or Friday.

"We need to bring food, medicine and blankets to affected communities today because another typhoon will hit these areas and it could be more difficult to reach thousands of families waiting for these relief goods," Major-General Pedro Cabuay told local radio.

Philippine President Gloria Arroyo blamed soil erosion for the massive flooding and ordered a renewed crackdown on illegal logging. 

"The series of landslides and flash floods that hit several parts of the country should serve as a wake-up call for us to join hands in preserving our environment and stepping up reforestation," she said in a statement quoted by AFP news agency. 

The worst-hit area was around the eastern coastal towns of Real, Infanta and General Nakar, where 364 people were dead, government figures showed. 

Many of the dead and missing in Real were in a three-storey building that was being used as a disaster centre when it collapsed during the storm. 

Many of those rescued from Real were seriously wounded with "lacerations on their bodies" and "pieces of wood piercing their legs", a coastguard spokesman said. 

Typhoons and storms regularly hit the Philippines. A November 1991 storm on Leyte island led to some 5,000 deaths from flooding.

01/12/2004

Bron : BBC World

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