Wed, Nov 28, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Philippine rescuers search for missing aircraft, fishermen

AFP , MANILA

The death toll from Typhoon Mitag rose to 12 in the Philippines, officials said yesterday as search operations continued for a missing air force jet and a fishing vessel with 27 people aboard.

The number of people displaced also jumped to nearly half a million across 19 provinces ravaged by flash floods and landslides triggered by the storm, the Office of Civil Defence said.

Mitag weakened as it exited the Philippines toward the southern islands of Japan, but provinces in the north of Luzon island continued to be battered by strong winds and rain.

Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Hagibis continued to dump rain over the islands of Palawan and Mindoro and was heading in a east-northeasterly direction.

Hagibis killed 13 people last week in its initial pass over the Philippines.

It reversed course on Monday to merge with Mitag, sinking a fishing boat near the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea and leaving 27 Filipino crewmen missing, officials said.

A Philippine air force jet sent to search for the crew members also went missing in the area on Monday, the military said.

Also yesterday, a 6.0-magnitude earthquake shook the Philippine capital yesterday, sending some office workers fleeing into the city's streets, seismologists and witnesses said.

The quake struck at 12:27pm and was centered 195km northwest of Manila at a depth of depth 62.5km, the US Geological Survey said.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology gave a lower preliminary magnitude reading of 4.2.

An earthquake of a magnitude of at least 6.0 can damage buildings, although there were no reports of damage or casualties from the quake, which was felt over large areas of the main Philippine island of Luzon, the institute said.

Radio reports said some office buildings in Manila emptied as people rushed outside when the structures began to sway.

A power line burst into flames near Manila city hall but no injuries were reported.

The city's light railway system also stopped briefly, they added.

Journalists were among people who ran out of Malacanang presidential palace while Philippine President Gloria Arroyo conducted a Cabinet meeting on the second floor. The Cabinet meeting was not disrupted, officials said.

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