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Horror and Grief in the Philippines
Bicol region has become a vast graveyard
Alex Argote (alexphil)     Print Article 
Published 2006-12-04 06:15 (KST)   
A surreal landscape of damaged buildings, uprooted trees and mangled bodies of the dead greeted Philippine rescuers, who flew into the storm-lashed Bicol region yesterday.

One local reporter described the scene as apocalyptic. Entire villages have been reduced to a few broken sticks and twisted corrugated roofs, with some human torsos protruding from the mud.

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In Albay, the province that bore the main brunt of Typhoon Durian, the wailing of grieving relatives mourning the loss of their loved ones could be heard in the devastated towns and villages lying on the slopes of Mount Mayon. Durian, known as Reming in the Philippines, made landfall Dec. 1.

As President Macapagal Arroyo declared a state of calamity in the storm-hit provinces to hasten the release of much-needed funds to bolster aid and relief efforts, Philippine officials expressed fears that the number of victims may soon soar into the thousands since so many remote settlements have been wiped out by the wall of volcanic mud and boulders that cascaded down from Mount Mayon.

Senator Richard Gordon, who currently heads the Philippine Red Cross, said that initial estimates of the casualties may reach a thousand, but he added that there might be more victims buried under tons of mud and rocks all around Albay province.

In the town of Guinobatan, an area badly mauled by Durian, key bridges gradually gave way to rampaging floodwaters and collapsed in tangled pieces of steel and concrete. The damage done to structures was so great that it may take years to rebuild the entire town as well as other areas in Albay.

The stench of death was evident as Filipino rescue teams and government troops hastily flown in from other parts of the country feverishly dug out victims from their watery graves. Men combing remote hamlets in mountain villages soon found many more bodies buried under the mud.

Padang town was entirely buried in mud. Only a few rooftops offer clues to what it was once. The national highway was strewn with debris and many overturned trucks and other vehicles.

Antonio Rolio Golez of the National Disaster Coordinating council said that despite earlier measures to deal with natural calamities, casualties were high because most poor Filipinos have no choice but to live in dangerous areas like riverbanks and mountain slopes.

Neighboring Camarines Sur province just north of Albay fared better. Mayor Jessie Robredo of Naga city claimed that there were zero casualties in his area because of preparations they had taken before Durian struck. He lamented, however, the costly reconstruction price tag that will require funds previously earmarked for job-generating economic projects.

Typhoons are the bane of the Philippine nation. These Pacific storms have been visiting the archipelago since the dawn of history and have been the source of national sorrow. The Philippines' geological position makes it the first in line to taste the full strength of typhoons that spawn in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Alex Argote

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