Philippines braces for more devastation from new typhoon

Report
from Deutsche Presse Agentur
Published on 02 Dec 2004
Manila (dpa) - A new and powerful typhoon slammed into the eastern Philippines on Thursday as rescuers struggled to reach areas already devastated by landslides and flash floods that have left almost 1,000 people dead or missing.
Thousands of people scrambled to higher ground or crowded evacuation centres as typhoon Nanmadol, packing maximum sustained winds of 185 kilometres per hour and gusts of up to 220 kph, spawned strong winds and heavy rains.

Electricity was cut off in the provinces of Catanduanes and Albay, the first to feel Nanmadol's impact.

School classes and more than 50 local and international commercial flights were cancelled on the main island of Luzon, including Manila, while the government suspended work in the afternoon.

Ferry services out of the eastern Bicol region and Manila were also suspended, stranding thousands of passengers.

"We are very worried,'' said Neri Amparo, chief of operations of the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC). "The typhoon has a radius of 800 kilometres, and many will be affected.''

Amparo said the NDCC has dispatched more teams carrying relief goods to provinces already ravaged by landslides and flash floods caused by a tropical depression on Monday.

According to a regional army command, the landslides and flash floods killed 484 people in the hard-hit towns of Real, General Nakar and Infanta in Quezon province, 75 kilometres north of Manila.

It added that 352 people were still missing in the three adjacent towns.

Fifty-eight others died and 400 more missing in other provinces in Luzon, mostly from the town of Dingalan in Aurora province, which was projected to be hit by Nanmadol's eye overnight.

Despite Nanmadol's threat, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo travelled to Quezon to personally check on the havoc and distribute relief goods to survivors.

Her group was able to reach the outlying village of Real, where terrified residents fled on foot while soldiers and volunteers cleared roads from debris of mud, coconut trees and logs to reach remote areas.

Some desperate residents called television and radio stations to seek help. "Please let the authorities know where we are,'' said Tessie Munar, who was with seven other people in the village of Gumian in Infanta. "We are afraid that we will be caught in the typhoon. Please help us. Tell them not to forget us.''

Munar, owner of a resort in Infanta, said her husband, brother and son were killed in a landslide, but their bodies have not yet been retrieved.

Rescuers have not yet reached the town of Infanta, but officials said teams were already on their way.

Mario Naniola, leader of a team of volunteers, said relief supplies were running out in Real town, where a building being used as an evacuation centre collapsed due to landslides.

"There's almost nothing to eat,'' he said. ''We brought in what we can, but the supplies have already depleted. There were so many displaced residents on the road, and the dead littered the way. It was a grim sight.''

Naniola and his team were already on their way out of Real to avoid being caught in the new typhoon.

"There was not much more we could do there,'' he said. ''Retrieving the dead bodies was very difficult. Everytime we shoveled the ground, more debris came down.''

The weather bureau said Nanmadol - moving west-northwest at 33 kilometres an hour - was forecast to cut through the northern provinces of Luzon overnight. It was expected to exit to the South China sea by Saturday. dpa gl jg blg

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