Sat, Dec 04, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Philippine rescuers frantically search for survivors


Rescuers scrambled yesterday to reach thousands of people stranded by a powerful typhoon that sliced through the Philippines on the heels of a storm which left more than 650 people dead and hundreds missing.

Mudslides and flash floods have turned entire provinces facing the Pacific Ocean into a sea of chocolate-brown mud littered with bodies, uprooted trees, collapsed homes and bridges. Nearly 170,000 people have fled their homes to higher ground.

Yesterday, soldiers reported finding about 100 dead in Dumingan in Aurora province, about 100km northeast of Manila, Major General Romeo Tolentino told ABS-CBN TV.

"We found out today that there is a district in the village of Dumingan, where more or less 100 people are dead," he said. "Our soldiers now are helping the populace to recover the survivors and bury the dead."

He had no details how the residents died. Previously, officials said 20 people died in Aurora.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo appealed to the nation to "come together ... [and] reach out to those who need help."

"We need one great heave to deliver the relief supplies, find the missing, rescue the isolated, feed the hungry and shelter the homeless," Arroyo said in a televised statement.

Most of the deaths occurred when a powerful tropical storm hit six northeastern provinces late Monday, killing at least 527 people, the military's Chief of Staff General Efren Abu said yesterday. Hardest hit was Quezon, where 484 bodies were recovered and 352 were still missing.

Typhoon Nanmadol swiped the same area late Thursday, killing at least 30, including 25 in a landslide in Aurora, the Office of Civil Defense reported.

Exact casualty figures were hard to establish, with many towns cut off by landslides. Soldiers, police and medical workers trekked with relief supplies across flood-ravaged roads and bare mountains to try to reach the victims.

"We're getting reports of bodies still floating in the rivers," said air force spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Restituto Padilla.

In Real, in Quezon province, Mayor Arsenio Ramallosa said the storm had left scores of dead and missing.

"We have been severely devastated," he said. "Our food supply is dwindling and good for only another three days."

He said a building at a beach resort, where about 100 people sought shelter during the storm, collapsed when it was hit by a landslide and that most of the people were still buried.

One man was miraculously dug out of the rubble alive early yesterday, he said.

He said most of the town's 40,000 residents had been evacuated. Floodwaters in some places reached more than 2m high, he said.

Meanwhile, about 400 soldiers carrying relief supplies on foot were approaching Real, Cabuay said.

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