The eye of the storm

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The Independent Online
The eye of the storm: Typhoon Angela, photographed from the Space Shuttle Columbia, over the Philippines. The death toll rose to more than 250 yesterday with many more missing and hundreds of thousands left homeless by the 125mph winds. The worst storm to hit the country since 1984, Angela is expected to reach central Vietnam tomorrow Photograph: NASA Philippines (AP) - Typhoon Angela's death toll rose dramatically Saturday to more than 250, with some 143 bodies reported found in one province alone, officials and radio reports said. any more people were reported missing and hundreds of thousands have been left homeless, their houses flooded or flattened by Angela's 200 kilometers per hour (125 mph) winds.

A possible food shortage also looms in the hardest hit region of Bicol southeast of Manila after the worst storm to hit the Philippines in a decade devastated rice crops there, officials warned.

Radio station DZRH said about 100 bodies were recovered in the town of Calauag in Quezon, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) southeast of Manila, where several communities were reportedly hit by big waves at the height of the typhoon Friday.

"Most of the bodies have been found floating along the shores," said a DZRH reporter, who noted having seen bodies wrapped in plastic bags and piled in the town's cemetery as the town ran out of coffins.

The station said 25 people have been reported missing by their relatives.

Quezon Gov. Robert Racelis said there were 43 more dead in different towns. He said 30 of them were killed in Sampaloc town when a dam burst and flood waters overran a village.

"The death toll could still rise. There are 16 missing and are presumed dead," Raceles said. "Many houses have been swept away."

Racelis said he had heard also of the Calauag disaster, but the personnel he sent to check the report had not yet returned from the remote town.

In its latest report Saturday night, the National Disaster Coordinating Center said it had received reports of 116 deaths, mostly in Bicol. Its reports did not include Quezon.

Angela's death toll has surpassed that of storm Zack, which ravaged the central Philippines last week, killing at least 165.

Angela roared out over the South China Sea on Friday, leaving behind flooding and widespread damage across the main island of Luzon and surrounding provinces. Angela was expected to hit central Vietnam on Monday.

A National Food Authority official, meanwhile, urged national authorities to send enough rice stocks to the Bicol region to avert a looming food shortage.

Only 30 percent of the region's rice crops have been harvested and most of what remained was heavily damaged by wind and floods, Edna de Guzman, Bicol's chief rice distribution officer, said.

Many government warehouses were destroyed and rice stocks in government hands were good only for three days while those held by traders would last only for a week, De Guzman said.

Police were enforcing price controls on food to prevent profiteering.

The storm caused an estimated dlrs 25 million of crop damage.

In Manila, thousands of houses along the coast, most of them belonging to poor families, were demolished, leaving nearly 300,000 people homeless. Many houses were still underwater Saturday.

Some 30,000 people around Taal Lake near Manila fled their homes at the height of the typhoon and were still in evacuation centers, according to disaster officials.

In suburban Taguig, Mayor Isidro Garcia warned that floods that have submerged most of 13 coastal villages along Laguna Lake may take until January to subside. Almost 30,000 people have been affected.

Garcia said many school buildings remained under water, threatening to render thousands of students idle for some time.

Property damage was estimated at about dlrs 20.6 million.

Angela, the strongest typhoon to hit the Philippines since 1984, was about 500 kilometers (310 miles) west of Manila on Saturday evening, headed toward Vietnam, the weather bureau said.

Vietnamese officials were bracing for the typhoon even as they assessed the damage from Zack, which had strengthened to typhoon status by the time it hit Wednesday. At least 14 people were killed in the storm, which blew the roofs off of hundreds of homes and offices, flooded winter crops and damaged rail lines, the newspaper Laodong (Labor) said.

Early damage estimates were put at about dlrs 16 million.

LUCENA, Philippines, Nov 4 (Reuter) - Fears that as many as 170 people may have died in a single typhoon-hit Philippine town grew on Saturday, and officials said the death toll could easily reach 500 with figures trickling in from remote areas.

More than 120 people were confirmed dead in the aftermath of super-typhoon Angela's rampage across the Philippines on Thursday night and Friday.

Officials said they were trying to confirm reports more than 170 people died in the town of Calauag, some 165 km (100 miles) southeast of Manila.

"More than 100 are dead (in Calauag)," Jose Asensi, regional director of the government's Philippine Information Agency, told reporters, adding that the initial reports were being transmitted to local government officers via a ham radio network.

The coastal town, in an area prone to landslides, is virtually completely cut off by floods, officials said.

Forty-six other people were reported to have died in towns across sprawling Quezon province, and more than 40 others perished in the neighbouring Bicol region at the southern end of Luzon, the most populous Philippine island.

"They are still digging bodies out of the rubble. The number of dead can only rise," a relief official said.

In the north, torrential downpours triggered by Angela sent a wall of mud seven feet high (2.1 metres) crashing down from Pinatubo volcano into the city of San Fernando.

The commercial centre of the city of 300,000 people was inundated as more than 50,000 people fled for their lives.

"It looks like a sea. One family rode a two-wheel horse-drawn carriage to safety," an eyewitness told Reuters by mobile phone.

Damage to infrastructure and critical crops like rice and coconuts climbed to over two billion pesos ($76.9 million) and is expected to rise further, relief officials said.

The island of Catanduanes, the first to be hit by Angela on Thursday evening, was laid waste by the typhoon.

"The entire province was heavily devastated," Air Force chief General Nicasio Rodriguez told reporters after escorting a transport plane full of relief goods to the island 350 km (220 miles) east of Manila.

In provinces south of Manila that were ravaged by the worst cyclone to hit the Philippines in a decade, the typhoon stripped trees of their leaves and houses of their roofs. Many towns looked like bombed-out wrecks.

"We immediately need food," Jesse Robredo, mayor of Naga city in the Bicol region, told a Manila radio station.

Weather forecasters said Angela was now more than 270 km (168 miles) west of the Philippines and headed for Vietnam.

Roads and bridges provinces south of Manila were destroyed, making it virtually impossible for rescue teams to fight their way to badly hit towns and cities.

Angela, up to 800 km (500 miles) wide and with winds hitting up to 250 kph (155 mph), battered the southern part of Luzon on Friday. The typhoon wreaked havoc in the most heavily populated island in this archipelago of 68 million people.

Local officials on Saturday launched a massive cleanup of Manila as repair teams tried to replace power poles snapped like twigs by the typhoon's ferocious winds.

Large parts of the capital remained without electricity, but life was returning to normal in the capital with Filipinos flocking to shopping malls. Domestic and international flights resumed at Manila's airports.

The Philippines gets hit by an average of 20 cyclones a year but Angela was the most powerful since typhoon Nina killed more than 1,000 in 1987.

Angela struck five days after tropical storm Zack rampaged through the main sugar-producing islands of Negros and Panay, killing 163 and jeopardising the country's sugar crop.


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