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Typhoon Kills Hundreds in Philippines
Strong winds and rain cause volcanic mudslides
Alex Argote (alexphil)     Print Article 
Published 2006-12-02 03:26 (KST)   
The Filipino nation will not have a good reason to celebrate Christmas this Yuletide season, as it was visited anew by a murderous natural calamity that destroyed so many lives and enormous amounts of property.

Typhoon Durian, locally known as Reming in the Philippines, yesterday made landfall in the island-province of Catanduanes in the long-weather-beaten Bicol region and heaped devastation the kind of which has not been seen for years in the area.

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With terrifyingly powerful winds reaching 121 miles per hour and gusts peaking to 139 mph, the Pacific howler tore through the southern part of Luzon island yesterday and caused massive floods and power outages due to collapsed electrical transmission towers and downed transformers

The poverty-ridden Bicol region of south Luzon bore the entire brunt of Durian's wrath as tons of volcanic sludge and red-hot rocks became heavier with rainwater and swept down Mount Mayon's slopes, wiping out eight villages and burying hundreds of trapped residents.

Reports coming from the Office of Civil Defense said that around 198 people were killed and some 300 were missing. But given the magnitude of the destruction, it is expected that the death-toll may rise even further.

Governor Fernando Gonzales of the worst-hit Albay province, lamented that the disaster literally covered every corner of his domain, "everywhere you look, there are rampaging floods, fallen trees blocking roads, and totally destroyed houses," he said.

Military helicopters have to undertake surveillance operations in remote areas that were cut-off from centers of civilization. Communications were out of the question as cellular phone towers have been knocked-down by powerful winds.

By nightfall, a wide swath of Luzon was plunged in darkness, as kilometer-after kilometer of electrical power lines needed to be repaired and restored to operating status. Officials calculated that total damages could reach hundreds of millions of pesos.

Rescue teams even have a hard time reaching trapped people in the rooftops, as rampaging floodwaters contributed to the difficulties faced by the relief operations.

Catanduanes island was particularly vulnerable since the province has to big mountains to shield it from the racing storm. Without any natural defense to help in slowing the typhoon, the entire island province was completely destroyed.

The chief of the Albay provincial disaster coordinating council Jukes Nunez said that many communities and towns were still under deep waters as of Friday morning.

Nunez reported that rescuers are overwhelmed by the mind-blowing level of requests. There are almost no one to direct relief operations since many disaster managers ended up being victimized by the super typhoon.

Deeply saddened by the widespread death and devastation in his bailiwick region, congressman and house deputy majority leader Edcel Lagman appealed to the President Macapagal Arroyo to immediately declare a state of calamity in the devastated communities so as to hasten the release of much-needed emergency funds.

The lawmaker from the Bicol region made his appeal when he saw the terrible extent of damage heaped upon his province by the fury of typhoon Durian. Lagman said that there were reports that close to 380 villagers in one hamlet have been buried under tons of mud and rock and he feared that hundreds more could have met the same fate in other villages.

Meanwhile, in distant Vatican city, Pope Benedict XVI, was reportedly saddened by the deaths in the Philippines.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone sent a telegram to Fernando Filoni, the Papal nuncio in the Philippines that the Pope extends his condolences and prayers to all the victims of the calamity.
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Alex Argote

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