DARAGA, Philippines: President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo declared a state of
national calamity yesterday as the top Red Cross official estimated more than
1,000 people have been killed after a massive typhoon unleashed walls of black
mud on entire villages.
"We're estimating the casualties could reach 1,000, perhaps more," Senator
Richard Gordon, who heads the local Red Cross, told Radio DZBB.
Gordon said the Red Cross had recorded a death toll of at least 406, with 398
missing, based on figures provided by mayors of devastated towns in the eastern
Philippines, where Typhoon Durian hit with of up to 265 kph and torrential rains
Government figures placed the number of dead at 324, with 302 missing and 438
Arroyo declared a state of national calamity, allowing the government to more
rapidly release funds needed to bolster search and rescue efforts. She is
scheduled to fly for a second time to worst-hit Albay province tomorrow,
spokesman Ignacio Bunye said.
Typhoon Durian was the fourth major storm to hit the Philippines in four
months. It buffeted the Mayon volcano with so much wind and rain that ash and
boulders cascaded down in walls of black mud that swamped entire villages a
scene Gordon described as a "war zone."
"There are many unidentified bodies. There could be a lot more hidden below.
Whole families may have been wiped out," Gordon told The Associated Press by
No survivors are known to have been pulled from farmlands buried by volcanic
mud, debris and boulders and hopes for finding any have virtually vanished.
After surveying the blackened wasteland, Spanish rescue volunteer David
Quintana was pessimistic. "Chances are zero because you cannot breathe, there is
no air," he said.
The first funerals took place on Saturday evening and several more bodies
were buried in mass graves yesterday as bodies rapidly decomposed in the
All but two dozen of the deaths occurred in Albay, with 165 in the town of
Guinobatan, swamped by floodwaters in the foothills of Mayon volcano southeast
of the capital, Manila.
Four other provinces reported fatalities, but accurate casualty figures were
hard to come by because power lines and phone services were down.
In some places, searchers found only body parts.
(China Daily 12/04/2006 page1)