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Hundreds Killed In Philippines Mudslides

   
LEGASPI, Philippines At least 388 people were confirmed dead Friday, December 1, after rivers of mud and rivers of mud and volcanic ash swamped villages in eastern Philippines.

Ninety-six people have also gone missing in the mounds triggered by Durian Typhoon, said Teresa Arguelles, spokesman for the Philippine National Red Cross, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).

All the dead were reported in the eastern province of Albay in the Bicol region

Rains caused by the territorial storm brought mud and rocks down hillsides, burying three villages in the foothills of the Mayon volcano, south-east of Manila.

Witnesses said the mudslide reached as high as rooftops as they poured down from Mount Mayon volcano, around 350 kilometers (217 miles) southeast of Manila.

Roel Ilarena, a resident of Padang village near Mayon, said as many as 500 people may have been killed when the mudflow struck overnight.

But the account could not be confirmed.

More than 13,900 people had been evacuated in the Bicol region due to the territorial storm, according to the civil defense office.

Saving Lives

Rescue workers were struggling to reach out the destroyed village to search for survivors.

But the rescue efforts were being hampered by storm damage, which knocked out electricity, telephone lines and water supply across much of the Bicol peninsula that includes Legaspi and Daraga.

Legaspi City's airport was shut down as debris littered the runway. Windows and part of the roof of the terminal were destroyed by the storm. A power outage also knocked out the control tower.

In a meeting with disaster relief officials, Philippine President Gloria Arroyo called on the military to help in any way with the relief efforts.

Forty military rescuers were flown out from the capital to the Mayon area by helicopter.

A C-130 transport plane, loaded with equipment and rescuers, is due to fly out to the area at first light Saturday.

Rescue personnel also plan to bring special search dogs trained to find buried bodies.

Durian Typhoon had weakened as it passed near Bicol late Thursday, packing maximum winds of 150 kilometers (93 miles) per hour.

It was charted at about 5:00 pm (0900 GMT) Friday 235 kilometers (145 miles) west of Manila.

Storm alerts were lowered in most of the country as Durian continued moving west at 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) per hour into the South China Sea.

Destruction

Durian Typhoon has already left a landscape of destruction across the central and northern Philippines.

The territorial storm has affected nearly 22,000 people as flooding and storm winds damaged homes, grounded planes and halted sea travel. Scores were injured.

Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap said farmers had suffered around 500 million pesos ($10 million) in losses after Durian swept through the coconut, rice and hemp-growing region.

Crop damage from previous typhoons dragged down third quarter economic growth.

"It's the worst in our history," said Congressman Edmund Reyes in the island of Marinduque

"Almost all houses were damaged by the typhoon in the province," he added.

In September, 213 people were killed when Typhoon Xangsane battered northern and central Philippines, leaving millions without electricity or running water for days.

The Philippines is also still recovering from the impact of typhoon Cimaron, the strongest cyclone to hit the nation in more than 10 years, which left 38 dead or missing in late October.