MANILA — Roman Catholic radio claimed today that at least 200 people were feared dead in tidal surges and high winds that hit the southernmost tip of the main Philippine island late Wednesday night.
Initially, Catholic Radio reported that more than 1,600 were dead in Sorsogon province, but the station drastically reduced its death toll later in the day.
Philippine Red Cross and national disaster authorities, reported less than a dozen deaths in Sorsogon and neighboring provinces, which bore the brunt of tropical hurricane Nina.
Nina is the 15th typhoon to hit the Philippines this year. The deadliest storm here came in 1984, when 1,430 were killed in several central Philippine provinces.
The Catholic radio station, Radio Veritas, began broadcasting the huge death toll at about noon today. The radio reports quoted Gerald de Mesa, a Roman Catholic priest who is also the station manager at DZGM in Sorsogon, as saying enormous waves and 127 m.p.h. winds demolished hundreds of huts and fishing vessels.
In reporting the lower death toll, De Mesa said local authorities had been initially confused figures of dead and missing.
In a telephone interview aired on Radio Veritas, De Mesa appealed for aid and disaster relief for his province, saying the storm was eight times worse than the typhoon that ravaged the region in August. De Mesa's account is the one of the few that has reached Manila from the province which is now without power or telephone.
Sorsogon is about 250 miles southeast of Manila on the southernmost tip of Luzon.
Although President Corazon Aquino ordered all schools closed in the nation's capital and canceled all domestic flights in anticipation of the storm, the high winds that hit Manila today caused only minor damage and knocked out all power in the city for the entire day.
Government radio said that communication was difficult between Manila and the storm-hit region, and that it would release confirmed damage reports this evening.