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Philippines typhoon kills 274; hundreds go missing

06 December, 2012

NEW BATAAN: The death toll from a typhoon that ravaged the Philippines jumped to 274 on Wednesday with hundreds more missing, as rescuers battled to reach areas cut off by floods and mudslides.

Typhoon Bopha slammed into the southern island of Mindanao on Tuesday, toppling trees and blowing away thousands of homes with 210-kilometre (per hour gusts before easing and heading towards the South China Sea.

A total of 253 people died in and around the gold-rush mountain towns of New Bataan and Monkayo due to typhoon-spawned landslides and flash floods there, civil defence chief Benito Ramos told reporters.

Twenty-one people were killed in other parts of the southern island of Mindanao and the central islands, he added. Cabinet members Mar Roxas and Corazon Soliman, who flew to the south to inspect the damage, described scenes of utter devastation with thousands of houses ripped apart and corpses lying on the ground. "These are whole families, six or seven names with the same surnames. It is saddening to think entire families have been washed away," Interior Secretary Roxas said.

"There is hardly any structure that is undamaged," he said in an interview over ABS-CBN television.

"We need to rush to these areas body bags, medicines, dry clothes and most importantly tents, because survivors are living out in the open," Social Welfare Secretary Soliman told AFP.

Bodies caked in mud were being transported on the back of army trucks and laid out in rows on tarpaulins where relatives searching for missing family members broke down as they identified the shrouded corpses of loved ones.

Shell-shocked survivors scrabbled through the rubble of their homes to find anything that could be recovered among a surrounding wasteland of flattened banana and coconut trees.

Ramos said 279 other people were still missing, while 339 others were had been for injuries. About 178,000 people remained huddled in evacuation centres, mostly crowded schoolhouses, gyms and other government buildings, officials said.

End.

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