Philippine mudslide toll mounts

Red Cross says many of the missing are likely to turn up dead.

    Mudslides that swept down the mountainside
    villages make it difficult to search for bodies

    Villages around Mount Mayon volcano were engulfed when driving rain and winds of up to 225kmph [140mph] dislodged tonnes of mud from its slopes.

    Typhoon Durian moved into the South China Sea on Friday after affecting 800,000 people in the Philippines and was expected to weaken into a tropical storm before hitting Vietnam on Monday.


    Thousands of survivors have crammed into schools and churches as disaster agencies called for fresh water, food and medicine.

    Nearly 45,000 people were left homeless and entire communities isolated after power lines and phone links were knocked out and bridges washed away.
    Mass burials

    Al Jazeera's Marga Ortegas in Legazpi, the capital of worst-hit Albay province, says the situation there can get worse.


    Survivors are picking up the pieces in the
    shadow of Mount Mayon

    "People are crammed into evacuation centres without medical aid and they are not getting any food. There is a feeling that the government is not doing enough."


    Officials have decided to carry out mass burials of the dead to stop the spread of disease.


    In the town of Guinobatan 57 unidentified people were buried in a mass grave.


    The vice-mayor Gene Villareal, said: "We couldn't wait any longer for the bodies to be identified.


    "We have no electricity, no freezer, no forensic experts and few chemicals. It was a health issue ... the bodies were starting to decompose."

    Decaying corpses
    In the town of Daraga, bordering Mount Mayon, more than 50 bodies were stacked in front of an overflowing funeral parlour.
    The undertaker estimated there were around 150 corpses in all.
    Cedric Daep, head of the provincial Disaster Control Council, said it would be a case of digging bodies from the mud rather than rescuing survivors.
    "There are possibly dozens or hundreds [of bodies] to be  recovered," Daep told AFP.
    He said floodwaters had risen so rapidly many people simply did  not have time to get out of their houses.
    Rea Buen tried to retrieve water containers from what used to be her home.
    "This used to be such a happy place, but not any more. When the mud came down we got out, but as I turned back I saw relatives and friends being washed away by the mud ... all I could do was watch.  We could do nothing,"
    Photographs of the missing line the Legazpi town square, as residents, many clutching handkerchiefs over their faces, searched for relatives among the dead.
    "My siblings, my mother, they are gone. My niece is dead and at the plaza there are so many dead people," one woman sobbed.
    Manila spared
    The storm was initially feared to be on course to pass over Manila, the Philippine capital, a city of some 12 million people. 

    The villages on the slopes of the Mayon
    volcano were hit by mudslides (file photo)

    But it changed course overnight, sparing the city from the worst effects of the storm before it reached into the South China Sea. 

    In September Typhoon Xangsane left around 200 people dead and missing, with clean-up work still far from finished.
    Damage to transport links and crops from Xangsane and other storms this year has already had a noticeable impact on the Philippine economy, slowing third quarter growth figures.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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