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Philippines Puts Death Toll From Storm at 135

November 10, 2001|From Associated Press

MAHINOG, Philippines — Workers prepared mass graves as search crews retrieved bodies from beneath boulders and collapsed homes Friday on a southern Philippine resort island swamped by Tropical Storm Lingling.

Officials said they had confirmed 135 deaths, and 300 more people were missing.

At the devastated community of Mahinog, a backhoe dug a huge hole in the town cemetery, and workers buried 15 people in plain plywood coffins. As bodies piled up, the town ran out of embalming fluid to preserve the dead, and 20 coffin makers worked around the clock.

On Friday, crews found the bodies of eight of 14 men trapped Thursday when the side of a defunct, open-pit copper mine collapsed.

Most of the deaths have been reported in Mahinog, on the island of Camiguin.

More than 130 residents were injured, and more than 650 homes were destroyed or damaged on the island of 75,000 people, said Camiguin Gov. Pedro Romualdo.

Romualdo called for donations of body bags, rice and blankets.

The Mahinog municipal health officer, Dr. Juanita Llacuna, said the dead must be buried immediately because of the possibility of disease.

Lingling battered the Philippines for two days before moving westward into the South China Sea. It sank a cargo ship, leaving 19 crew members missing, and drenched islands with rain as it crawled across the sprawling archipelago.

The storm intensified slightly as it blew farther away from the Philippines across the South China Sea, carrying sustained winds of 68 mph and gusts of up to 87 mph. Lingling was about 350 miles southwest of Manila and moving westward at 8 mph.

On Camiguin, fast-moving flood waters bearing boulders cascaded from hills around Hibok-Hibok, one of the island's seven volcanoes, and rushed into mountain villages in Mahinog and riverside communities in Catarman as most people were still sleeping Wednesday.

Camiguin, famed for its beach resorts, is normally spared during typhoon season because most storms track to the north.

Elsewhere in the Philippines, flooding from Lingling killed eight people in Negros Occidental province.

About 40,000 people were evacuated there, and officials declared a state of emergency.

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