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350 dead, 400 missing in Philippine typhoon

At least 200 of the victims died in Compostela Valley alone, including 78 villagers and soldiers who perished in a flash flood.

Image: (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

A POWERFUL TYPHOON that washed away emergency shelters, a military camp and possibly entire families in the southern Philippines has killed almost 350 people with nearly 400 missing.

More bodies were retrieved from hardest-hit Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental provinces and six others impacted by Tuesday’s storm, the Office of Civil Defense reported.

At least 200 of the victims died in Compostela Valley alone, including 78 villagers and soldiers who perished in a flash flood that swamped two emergency shelters and a military camp.

“Entire families may have been washed away,” said Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, who visited New Bataan yesterday. The farming town of 45,000 people was a muddy wasteland of collapsed houses and coconut and banana trees felled by ferocious winds.

Children retrieve their belongings from their damaged home. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

Bodies of victims were laid on the ground for viewing by people searching for missing relatives. Some were badly mangled after being dragged by raging floodwaters over rocks and other debris. A man sprayed insecticide on the remains to keep away swarms of flies.

A father wept when he found the body of his child after lifting a plastic cover. A mother, meanwhile, went away in tears, unable to find her missing children. “I have three children,” she said repeatedly, flashing three fingers before a TV cameraman.

Two men carried the mud-caked body of an unidentified girl that was covered with coconut leaves on a makeshift stretcher made from a blanket and wooden poles.

Dionisia Requinto, 43, felt lucky to have survived with her husband and their eight children after swirling flood waters surrounded their home. She said they escaped and made their way up a hill to safety, bracing themselves against boulders and fallen trees as they climbed.

“The water rose so fast,” she said. “It was horrible. I thought it was going to be our end.”

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies issued an urgent appeal for $4.8 million to help people directly affected by the typhoon.

The United States extended its condolences and offered to help its Asian ally deal with the typhoon’s devastation. It praised government efforts to minimize the deaths and damage.

- AP

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