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Hunt for Philippine fishermen after killer typhoon

by Staff Writers
Manila (AFP) July 15, 2010
Troops scoured the Philippine coast Thursday for over two dozen fishermen who went missing after a typhoon battered the country, killing at least 30 people and ravaging the national power grid.

Using rubber boats and small fishing vessels, hundreds of soldiers raced against time to look for the 29 fishermen amid fears they could succumb to hypothermia if exposed at sea, military spokesman Major Harold Cabunoc said.

"We are still hoping we will get some of them alive. Some of them could just be stranded on small islands," Cabunoc told AFP.

The search, which also involved the coast guard, focused on the mouth of Manila Bay and the country's eastern seaboard, areas that bore the brunt of Typhoon Conson's wrath on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.

The coast guard on Thursday recovered the bodies of seven fishermen from a fishing boat that sank at the mouth of Manila Bay at the height of the typhoon, coast guard spokesman Armando Balilo told AFP.

This brought the official death toll from the typhoon to 30. The government had earlier given a higher figure for the number of fishermen missing, but said the number now confirmed missing was 29.

The Philippines is in the so-called typhoon belt of the Pacific. Up to 20 typhoons sweep through the country each year, killing hundreds of people.

But the ferocity of Conson, which was the first typhoon of the season, took many people in Manila by surprise after the state weather service said it would only strike provinces to the north on the Philippines' main island of Luzon.

Conson destroyed shanty towns on the outskirts of Manila and knocked out power for nearly all of the capital on Wednesday, bringing the city of 12 million people to a virtual standstill.

By Thursday afternoon, power had still not been restored to many areas and electrical firms were pleading with customers for patience.

"We can not give you a timetable (for when power will be restored). We are trying our best to finish this as soon as possible," Dina Lomotan, a spokeswoman for distributor Manila Electric Co, said on local radio.

Lomotan said electricity supplies for those who could get access would be rationed, and called on the public to conserve energy.

"We have to ration off supply. There will be three-hour rotational brownouts (outages)," she said.

The National Grid Corp of the Philippines said power may not be fully restored to all areas of Luzon, home to about 40 million people, until the weekend, prompting President Benigno Aquino to voice frustration.

"I cannot accept what they say that it would take three or four days to restore it," Aquino told reporters.

Business leaders have warned the outages are costing the economy hundreds of millions of dollars every day.

Meanwhile, telephone networks that were brought down by the typhoon also remained patchy on Thursday.

The government said its schools had reopened, but many private schools remained closed because of continuing power outages.

The government weather station said Conson was well over the South China Sea on Thursday afternoon and moving northwest towards southern China.

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20 dead as typhoon smashes Philippines
Manila (AFP) July 14, 2010
Typhoon Conson ripped across the Philippines on Wednesday, killing at least 20 people as it destroyed shanty towns and caused widespread blackouts that brought the nation's capital to a standstill. Sixty other people were reported missing after Conson hit the Southeast Asian archipelago late on Tuesday, then whipped the main island of Luzon throughout the night with wind gusts of 120 kilomet ... read more

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