UPDATE 2-Philippine shelters "washed away" as typhoon toll hits 379

Erik de Castro
Reuters Middle East

NEW BATAAN, Philippines, Dec 6 (Reuters) - Rescue workers

searched on Thursday through thick mud, broken homes and fallen

trees for survivors, two days after a typhoon swept the southern

Philippines killing nearly 400 people and leaving at least as

many missing.

Typhoon Bopha, with central winds of up to 120 kph (74 mph)

and gusts of up to 150 kph (93 mph), was moving west-northwest

of the central Philippines after ravaging the resource-rich

island of Mindanao.

The National Disaster Agency put the death toll at 379 after

Bopha triggered landslides and floods along the coast and in

farming and mining towns inland in the provinces of Compostela

Valley and Davao Oriental. The death toll is expected to rise.

Arturo "Arthur" Uy, governor of Compostela Valley, the

worst-hit area, said estimates showed 200 had died and almost

600 remained missing in his province alone, higher than the

agency's tally.

"This is the first time a typhoon with signal number three

has crossed our province," he said. "We evacuated people from

riverbanks and shorelines. But the floods and strong winds

battered not just the riverbanks but also places where residents

where supposed to be safe."

About 20 typhoons hit the Philippines every year, often

causing death and destruction. Almost exactly a year ago,

Typhoon Washi killed 1,500 people in Mindanao, but most storms

make landfall further north.

Uy said a village hall, health centre and covered court in

New Bataan, where residents took shelter ahead of the typhoon,

were washed away by floods and mud.

A few residents in Compostela Valley started repairing their

houses, while housewives washed mud-drenched clothes and used

fallen trees for cooking in makeshift stoves outside homes.

"I don't know what to do now," coconut farmer Roger Calarian

told Reuters while waiting for rice at a relief centre in New

Bataan town. "I lost my house, I lost my livelihood. I want to

rebuild my hut but I don't think I have the energy to do that



Rescue volunteers lifted a 54-year-old man to safety after

they found him in a tattered shirt with a fractured leg and

bruises, clinging to a boulder by a river in New Bataan.

"I didn't expect to see people survive two days after they

were swept (away) by flood and mud," fire volunteer Mark Roman

Jumilla told Reuters. "For two days, he survived on coconut and

water. He lost his family when floodwaters swept a temporary

shelter area where he and his family sought refuge."

Rescuers also found a pregnant woman on the other side of

the river with her one-year son after escaping floods that

swamped their house after the storm made landfall.

"It happened so fast. Water came rushing to us while we were

leaving our house to move to safer ground," Lenlen Medrano, 23,

told Reuters as she was being carried by stretcher.

"I prayed hard over and over until we found ourselves on the


A Reuters photographer saw four bodies. The river's current

was strong, making it hard for rescue teams to reach other


The Geneva-based International Federation of Red Cross and

Red Crescent made an urgent appeal for funds to help feed and

provide shelter for 50,000 people on Mindanao.

Major-General Ariel Bernardo, an army division commander,

said a navy ship was bringing food, water and relief goods to

three coastal towns isolated by collapsed bridges and damaged


The Communist Party of the Philippines issued a statement on

Thursday, ordering Maoist guerrillas to suspend attacks on army

units and help in the rescue and relief operations.

Foreign governments, including the United States, Japan and

the European Union, offered help to displaced families. Nearly

200,000 are in shelter areas and most of those have lost their


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