80 dead as powerful typhoon batters Philippines (Second lead)

June 22nd, 2008 - 12:33 pm ICT by IANS  

Manila, June 22 (DPA) A powerful typhoon battered the Philippines Sunday, leaving at least 80 people dead, thousands homeless and hundreds missing in a ferry sinking, officials said. Forty-nine people were killed in the central province of Iloilo, 560 km south of Manila, where several towns were inundated in flood waters when Typhoon Fengshen first slammed the area Saturday.

Iloilo Governor Neil Tupas declared the province under a state of calamity as he expressed fears the toll could reach to more than 100 since many areas remained unreachable.

Nine more fatalities were reported in nearby Antique province, according to disaster relief and local officials.

Fengshen, with maximum sustained winds of 120 km per hour near the centre and gusts of up to 150 km per hour, also left 17 people dead in the southern provinces of Maguindanao and North Cotabato.

Two more fatalities were reported in the central province of Negros Oriental, two in Leyte province and one in Capiz.

In San Fernando town on Sibuyan Island, 300 km south of Manila, at least four bodies were retrieved from a passenger ferry that sunk on rough seas with 823 people on board, police and local officials said.

“We fear that more bodies are trapped inside the ferry,” said town police chief Inspector Reynaldo Reyes.

The ill-fated MV Princess of the Star ran aground in the area after suffering from engine trouble and being battered by big waves and strong winds.

Melanie Rotoni, a resident of Taclobo village in San Fernando town, said she saw what appeared to be a bow of a huge capsized boat about 10 to 15 metres away from the shore, but there were no signs of life.

Attempts by coast guard and navy boats to reach the area have failed due to huge waves and strong winds. Only local police and volunteers are conducting search and rescue operations.

Fengshen slammed into Manila early Sunday and was expected to wreck havoc in the northern provinces of Bulacan, Pampanga, Tarlac, Zambales and Pangasinan later in the day and Monday.

Many key streets in Manila were flooded and most of the metropolis was without power as strong winds and heavy rains lashed the city.

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