Philippines typhoon toll reaches 128 (Fourth Lead)

June 22nd, 2008 - 8:37 pm ICT by IANS  

Manila, June 22 (DPA) A powerful typhoon battered the Philippines Sunday, killing at least 128 people, with more than 800 still missing in a ferry sinking and hundreds of thousands displaced due to floods and landslides, officials said. Senator Richard Gordon, who is also chairman of the Philippine Red Cross, said his office have tabulated 128 people killed in Typhoon Fengshen, including 10 who died in the sinking of a passenger ferry carrying 823 people.

Gordon corrected his earlier statement over the radio that the toll already reached 155, noting that there was a miscommunication with rescuers.

Most of the dead were reported in Iloilo province, 560 km south of Manila, where most of the towns were inundated in floodwaters and at least 59 people were killed.

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.

Tupas appealed for food, medicine and clothing for thousands who were staying in evacuation centres.

Gordon said the other fatalities were reported in the provinces of Antique, Capiz, Negros Occidental, Leyte, Batangas, Quezon and Romblon.

Fengshen, with maximum sustained winds of 120 km per hour near the centre and gusts of up to 150 km per hour, also left 20 people dead in the southern provinces of Maguindanao, North Cotabato and Sarangani.

In San Fernando town on Sibuyan Island, 300 km south of Manila, at least 10 dead bodies were retrieved from a passenger ferry that sunk on rough seas with 823 people on board, Gordon said.

Rescuers are braving rough seas to find more survivors or fatalities.

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

Four survivors were rescued Sunday, but 809 people were still unaccounted for.

Gordon said the Red Cross was confirming reports that some survivors were spotted in various communities on Sibuyan Island.

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

Coast guard spokesman Armand Balilo said a coast guard rescue ship was already in the vicinity of Sibuyan but had not yet reached the sunken ship due to strong waves.

Balilo expressed hope that some of the passengers of the sunken vessel were able to escape and reach land safely.

“We really hope that we can find more survivors,” he said.

The National Disaster Coordinating Council said 366,444 people were displaced by Fengshen in more than a dozen provinces.

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 on 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. Dozens of domestic and international flights have been cancelled due to the bad weather.

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