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Typhoon leaves trail of destruction as Philippines buries its dead
REAL, Philippines (AFP) Dec 03, 2004
Survivors fearful of epidemics were Friday burying hundreds of people killed in storms this week as Typhoon Nanmadol barreled out to sea after cutting a swathe of destruction across the northern Philippines.

The toll of dead and missing from two storms in four days stood at 1,100. Officials urged the public to donate body bags as the number of corpses unearthed from the mud piled up.

President Gloria Arroyo urged her 84 million compatriots to overcome their wretched luck and help her rebuild the devastated areas.

"This is a time to show ourselves and to show the world the solidarity, resiliency and the self-reliance (of) communities that can clasp hands to meet misfortune," she said in a television address.

With government resources "stretched thinly," the country needed from ordinary citizens "one great heave to deliver the relief supplies, find the missing, rescue the isolated, feed the hungry and shelter the homeless."

With the weather improving, the air force resumed rescue missions. One aircraft landed at a school yard in Real and evacuated five injured survivors among dozens who had lost their homes and sheltered there.

Mother of four Violeta Fortunato, 47, told AFP her family was reduced to eating coconut meat.

Rescuers said they have recovered 755 bodies and 345 people are still missing after a tropical depression hit the country on Monday, followed by Typhoon Nanmadol on Thursday.

Of this total, 688 were found in the coastal towns of Real, Infanta and General Nakar, said Colonel Jaime Buenaflor, the commander of military forces in the area. The towns were buried by raging torrents of muddy water that carried boulders and logs from the first storm.

Buenaflor said at least 330 other residents in the three towns are missing.

The civil defense office said at least 32 people had been killed and two were missing in other parts of the Philippines after Monday's storm.

It said about 35 people were killed by Nanmadol through landslides, drowning, exposure and falling trees and power lines while 13 were missing.

Some 400 bodies had been buried in mass graves in the three worst-hit towns because the 200 body bags and 200 kilograms (440 pounds) of lime preservative which had been supplied were not enough, said Ladislao Yuchongco, director of the health department's national health emergency management.

With some 95,000 people crammed into evacuation centers after being displaced by landslides, high winds and floods, his biggest concern was "bacterial infections carried by flies, insects and rodents" from the corpses to the shelters.

The government is appealing for donations of body bags, he added.

Health Secretary Manuel Dayrit said there was still no sign of epidemics but reiterated that the dead bodies "be buried in 24 hours (after) the requisite rituals."

Around Real, many of the dead were being buried in makeshift graves and marked with wooden crosses until proper burials could be arranged.

A photographer who reached the center of the town by boat Friday told AFP he saw survivors burning two corpses on an improvised funeral pyre by the pier.

Schools in much of the country remained closed Friday along with government offices and financial markets as the emergency services worked to restore power in some parts of the island.

More than 86,000 hectares (212,420 acres) of farmland remained under water, ruining the season's rice harvest, said Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap.

Packing winds of up to 120 kilometres (74.4 miles) an hour, Typhoon Nanmodal pulled away from Luzon before dawn and then veered to the right.

At 4:00 pm (0800 GMT) Friday it was charted 230 kilometers northwest of the city of Laoag, moving northwest at 22 kilometers per hour toward Taiwan.

Nanmadol's path through the country on Thursday brought rains and heavy winds that swelled floods and hampered rescue efforts for the victims of the earlier storm.

Ferry services resumed Friday and survivors from Real jumped aboard the first boat out. The three towns had previously been cut off by landslides that blocked roads and knocked down bridges while rough waters prevented sea travel.

Ferry passenger Danny Luces, trapped by the storm in Real while on vacation, told a grim story.

"The situation there is really desperate. There is no more food and drinking water. There are still many corpses there."

Nelda Paja, fleeing Infanta town with her seven children, said "there are still many dead bodies there."

Infanta native Wilson Sollano said "bodies are strewn everywhere in some areas. Floodwaters were as high as our rooftops."

Military trucks carrying relief goods and residents on foot struggled to make their way over roads still buried in mud left behind by the landslides. Rain fell steadily, hampering visibility.

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