Philippines: 1,000 dead or missing

REAL, Philippines -- Rescuers are battling to reach thousands of people left stranded in the Philippines, where storms have left 1,000 people dead or missing.

The latest typhoon, which sliced through the nation on Friday, led to the evacuation of almost 170,000 people.

Typhoon Nanmadol made landfall late Thursday along the northeast coast with sustained winds of up to 185 kilometers (115 miles) per hour and gusts of up to 220 kilometers per hour, slicing through the main island of Luzon Friday morning, The Associated Press reported. 

The news agency puts the human toll at more than 550 people dead, with hundreds missing. 

Schools and government offices remained closed Friday in Manila and the rest of the country, the presidential office announced. 

"Based on reports from our troops in the field, they have listed 479 dead and 560 missing in three towns in Quezon province," Reuters quoted military spokesman Lt. Col. Buenaventura Pascual as saying.

Hundreds of soldiers battled to find and rescue scores of people marooned by rising floodwaters before the typhoon made its landfall.

Nanmadol is the third major storm to strike the region in the past two weeks. 

The coast guard prevented ferries, small boats and fishermen from leaving ports, and the air force said the bad weather had basically grounded its rescue fleet. 

The typhoon drenched Manila and most of the country, causing flooding on some streets and temporary power outages in the capital. 

"We are very concerned and we are not sure how we can avoid further casualties in these areas," Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman told Reuters.

"If you go on the slopes, the ground is very loose. If you go on (lower) ground, the water can rise and you might have mudslides."

The recent spate of storms has caused an estimated $14.7 million in damage to crops, livestock and fisheries, Reuters quoted the agriculture department as saying. The government has appealed for international aid.

Japan said it would provide tents, generators, water tanks and other items, and the United States said it would give $100,000 in aid and provide engineers to help clear roads and build bridges.

Illegal logging has been blamed for exacerbating the disaster, and President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has ordered a nationwide crackdown on the practice.

Relief operations are based in the three towns of Real, Infanta and General Nakar, a region of about 110,000 people on the eastern foothills of the Sierra Madre mountain range.

In Real, where more than 100 people have been killed, residents trudged through deep mud to try to reach higher ground before Typhoon Namadol hit.

Chocolate-brown mud buried swathes of Real and two nearby fishing and farming villages.

One woman frantically called ABS-CBN television, begging to be rescued from a rooftop.

"All my relatives are dead. I survived because I was able to go to the roof," The Associated Press quoted Tessie Munar, owner of a Quezon province resort, as saying.

"My sister is dead, my husband is dead."

A navy gunboat set to bring food and medicine to Real was forced to turn back Wednesday due to rough seas and debris, AP quoted Capt. Geronimo Malabanan as saying.

Regional military commander Maj. Gen. Pedro Cabuay said about 400 troops set out for Real on foot with relief supplies in their backpacks and in boxes perched on their heads.

He said the route to Real had been blocked by as many as 20 landslides, AP reported.

"We are not concerned so much about saving property. We just want to save lives," said Filipina America, mayor of another hard-hit town, Infanta.

Even for a country used to typhoons, the devastation has been staggering with large portions of the northeastern Philippines under water.

Many of the dead were killed when torrential rain and wind sent water, logs and mud cascading through three coastal towns.

"There are a lot of persons missing so we expect the figure to rise," Philippine Defense Undersecretary Ernesto Carolina said.

A typhoon and another storm last week killed at least 87 people and left 80 others missing in the east.

03/12/2004

Bron : CNN

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