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598 dead or missing in typhoon

This image provided by NOAA shows Tropical Storm Fengshen taken Thursday, June 19, 2008 located southeast of the Philippines.

Story: 598 people are dead or missing after Typhoon Fengshen roared through the Philippines, the Red Cross and civil defence said today, dramatically raising the number unaccounted for. Landslides, severe flooding and the loss of dozens of fishing boats had left at least 224 dead and 374 missing, mostly in central areas which bore the brunt of the storm. The figures do not include passengers and crew from a ferry which sank carrying more than 800 people. So far, only 32 survivors have been found. More than 200 people were still missing in the central island of Negros, while 63,000 people are still in evacuation centres after flash floods and landslides forced them to flee their homes. Flooding had not yet receded in many parts of Bulacan province, just outside the capital of Manila. Power was restored in Manila but had not yet returned in some areas outside the capital where lines had been toppled. Typhoon Fengshen slammed into the central Philippines late on Saturday before changing course and moving north across much of the archipelago. It left through the northwest side of the main island of Luzon before dawn today, moving northwest at 15km/h towards southern China. As of 10am (midday AEST) today, the typhoon was charted 300km northwest of the country, packing maximum winds of 110km/h near the centre.

Hopes faded today that more survivors would be found in what could be one of the worst Philippine sea disasters as rescuers failed to find signs of life inside the capsized ferry. Rescue officials said only 38 people had been rescued, including 28 passengers and crew members who came ashore today after drifting at sea since Saturday. A total of 13 bodies believed to be from the ferry Princess of the Stars have been recovered, including 9 that washed ashore today. Divers who beat against the hull of ferry Monday in search of survivors heard nothing that indicated life. Elsewhere, officials tried to assess the losses from the typhoon. Iloilo, a central Philippine province, was the worst hit, with fatalities approaching 100 as of today. It was too early to determine damage to agriculture and infrastructure, but officials said it could run up to millions of dollars. Another concern was the welfare of the nearly 70,000 people throughout the country who were displaced by the typhoon and are now living in evacuation centers. Coast guard officials said that they had cleared the ferry to leave Manila for Cebu, a city in the central Philippines, on Friday night because the initial forecast for Fengshen showed that the storm would only hit the eastern part of the country, away from the ferry's route. But the typhoon changed direction Saturday, moving toward the center of the country, running right into the ferry's path. Coast guard officials said they had advised the ferry to seek shelter, but that the boat's engine had failed after the ship was battered by strong winds and waves, thus leaving it even more vulnerable to the intensifying storm. Image Above: Rescue divers in the Philippines gathering Tuesday near the ferry Princess of the Stars, which was overturned by a typhoon Saturday.
(Romeo Ranoco/Reuters)
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