Powerful typhoon batters Philippines, toll tops 100

June 22nd, 2008 - 6:50 pm ICT by IANS  

Manila, June 22 (DPA) A powerful typhoon battered the Philippines Sunday, killing at least 103 people, with more than 800 still missing in a ferry sinking and hundreds of thousands displaced due to floods and landslides, officials said. Fifty-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.

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

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 20 people dead in the southern provinces of Maguindanao, North Cotabato and Sarangani

Four more fatalities were reported in the central province of Capiz, two in Negros Occidental province, two in Leyte province, one each in the provinces of Batangas, Quezon and Romblon.

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.

Officials said three survivors were recovered Sunday, but the fate of other 816 on board the ferry was still unknown.

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.

Only local police and volunteers are conducting search and rescue operations.

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 persons 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 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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