12/02/2006, 00.00
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Hopes fade of finding survivors buried in mud after typhoon

Durian shook the region around Mount Mayon: so far, 469 people are either dead or missing, buried under an enormous flow of mud, rocks and ashes. These latest casualties push up the high death toll of natural disasters in the Philippines in recent years.

Legazpi (AsiaNews) – Rescue operations continue in a bid to find survivors of the disastrous Typhoon Durian that hit the eastern Philippines between 30 November and 1 December. But hopes are fading fast. The official death toll is 469 between people killed and missing under an enormous sea of mud, boulders and ashes that has destroyed several villages so far. Experts say the death toll is set to rise. "Most deaths have occurred around Mayon volcano," said Glenn Rabonza of the Philippine National Disaster Coordinating Council. "It is a death toll that will probably rise as time passes."

Winds of up to 225km per hour and strong rains provoked landslides on the slopes of Mount Mayon, covering the villages of Padang and Daraga and hitting another five at least. The volcano, the most active in the country, erupted in July, spewing millions of tons of rocks and ash onto its slopes. More than 14,000 people have been evacuated so far; rescue operations are proceeding with difficulty because of terrible road conditions and means of communications. The president of the Philippines ordered the army to intervene to boost rescue teams that are seeking to reach submerged villages. Agricultural damage alone is estimated to be at least 7.6 million euros.

Pope Benedict XVI yesterday sent a telegram of condolences for the victims. In the message, signed by Secretary of State, Tarcisio Bertone, the Pope said he was "deeply saddened by the tragic loss of life caused by typhoon Durian which recently struck the eastern Philippines."

A country used to natural disasters

Durian – its name derives from a tropical fruit – is the fourth typhoon to hit the Philippines in three months. Meteorologists forecast that it will move to the seas of southern China, where it should weaken before hitting the coasts of Vietnam.

Situated in the north-west Pacific, the Filipino archipelago – according to experts – is the first country to be struck by the fury of the world's worst typhoons as soon as they are created. Thelma Cinco, of the Meteorological Department of the Philippines, said: "We are often the first country to experience typhoons, before they head for China, Taiwan and Japan."

The loss of human life as a result of natural disasters in the Philippines has drastically increased in recent years. According to estimates of the Philippine National Disaster Coordinating Council, 2,892 people were killed and another 909 have gone missing between 2001 and 2005, due to typhoons and other types of storms, which caused a damage of 521 million dollars. In the last century, inclement weather conditions cost the country 300 million dollars per year in damage to infrastructures.

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See also
200 killed as Typhoon Durian strikes Philippines
Philippines: fears over Bulusan volcano, 500 families evacuated
Philippines, 50 thousand people evacuated from the path of Mayon volcano
A "saddened" Pope prays for victims of typhoon Durian
Morakot typhoon: rescuers save 700 people, thousands still missing


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