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Typhoon Kills 198 in Philippines
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Typhoon Durian smashed into the Philippines with heavy rains and winds gusting up to 265 kilometers per hour (kph), spawning flash floods and sending walls of muddy volcanic ash and red-hot boulders crashing down on several villages, officials said on Friday.


The national Office of Civil Defense reported 198 people were killed and 260 were missing. Fernando Gonzalez, governor of Albay, the worst-hit province, said the figures included 109 people who died in mudslides on the slopes of the Mayon volcano that also injured 130.


"The disaster covered almost every corner of this province rampaging floods, falling trees, damaged houses," Gonzalez said.


With power and phone lines downed by powerful winds, helicopters were carrying out aerial surveillance of cut-off areas. Officials estimated that the storm had affected some 22,000 people. "Our rescue teams are overstretched rescuing people on rooftops," Glen Rabonza, head of the Office of Civil Defense, said after President Gloria Arroyo was briefed on the storm's devastation.


The typhoon weakened on Friday as it moved north of Mindoro Island south of Manila with sustained winds of 150 kph and gusts of up to 185 kph as it headed towards the South China Sea.


Gonzalez said seven or eight villages had been hit by lava flows that rumbled down Mayon's slopes for three hours on Thursday.


"It happened very rapidly and many people did not expect this because they haven't experienced mud flows in those areas before," Gonzalez said. "By the time they wanted to move, the rampaging mud flows were upon them."


Cars zigzagged on the road to the affected area to avoid uprooted trees and toppled utility posts. Steel pylons had been bent down by the wind, and power cables lay scattered about like strands of spaghetti.


With the sky surprisingly blue already, people were digging foundations for new homes, hammering tin sheets onto leaking roofs and drying pillows, mattresses and clothes in the sun.


"The wind was extremely strong," said Domingo Billares, sitting beside his wife in the town of Ragay, in Camarines Sur Province, where the wooden frame was the only thing left of their home. "We thought we would not survive through the day."


Durian was the fourth "super typhoon" to hit the Philippines in as many months. In late September, Typhoon Xangsane left 230 people dead and missing in and around Manila. Typhoon Cimaron killed 19 people and injured 58 others in October, and earlier last month, Chebi sliced through the central Luzon region, killing one.


About 20 typhoons and tropical storms hit the Philippines each year.


(China Daily December 2, 2006)

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