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Typhoon toll rises to 19 as Philippines mops up
Updated: 2004-05-19 13:01

The death toll from the strongest typhoon to hit the Philippines this year rose to at least 19 on Wednesday with damage to crops and infrastructure put at $1.3 million as the storm headed away towards southern Japan.

The National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) said the number of dead could rise as reports came in from isolated areas in the Bicol region on the main island of Luzon, which bore the brunt of Typhoon Nida.

"We are now assessing the damage on the ground," said Olive Luces of the Office of Civil Defence, adding that teams had been sent to inspect areas ravaged by the fourth typhoon to hit the country in five months.

The Philippines declared a "state of calamity" in eight provinces on Tuesday after Nida displaced thousands and cut off the wide parts of Bicol region as it swept past the eastern part of the country.

Packing winds of 150 kph (94 mph) and gusts of up to 185 kph (115 mph), the typhoon caused floods and landslides in the Bicol region of the main island of Luzon, disaster officials said.

Luces said 19 people had died, including eight who drowned when a motorised boat sank off a central island on Tuesday. Another 10 were missing.

"We are trying to confirm how many were on board the boat," Luces said.

The weather bureau said the typhoon was about 330 km (200 miles) east-northeast of Aparri in the northern part of the Philippines. It was heading towards the southern Japanese island of Okinawa, but was losing speed and power, they said.

The disaster council said damage to agriculture was estimated at 33 million pesos ($590,000). Bicol is a key coconut-producing area.

The Philippines is hit by 17 to 20 typhoons each year. The most destructive in recent times was Thelma, which struck Leyte island in November 1991 and unleashed massive floods in Ormoc City that drowned about 5,000 people.

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