475 dead, many homeless in Philippines typhoon

Philippines typhoon

Nearly 200,000 people were homeless and 475 confirmed dead after the Philippines' worst typhoon this year, officials said today, as the government appealed for international help.

Typhoon Bopha ploughed across Mindanao island on Tuesday, flattening whole towns in its path as hurricane-force winds brought torrential rain that triggered a deadly combination of floods and landslides.

Erinea Cantilla and her family of six walked barefoot for two days in a vain search of food and shelter through a muddy wasteland near the mountainous town of New Bataan after the deluge destroyed their house and banana and cocoa farm.

"Everything we had is gone. The only ones left are dead people," Cantilla told AFP as her husband, three children and a granddaughter reached the outskirts of the town, which itself had been nearly totally obliterated.

The army said it was looking for at least 377 missing people while seeking help for more than 179,000 others who sheltered in schools, gyms and other buildings after losing everything.

Officials said many victims were poor migrants who flocked to landslide-prone sites like New Bataan and the nearby town of Monkayo to farm the lower slopes of mountains or work at unregulated mines in the gold rush area.

Of the dead, 258 were found on the east coast of Mindanao while 191 were recovered in and around New Bataan and Monkayo, said Major-General Ariel Bernardo, head of an army division involved in the search.

The civil defence office in Manila said 17 people were killed elsewhere in Mindanao along with nine in the central Visayan islands.

"We still have more than 377 missing and our challenge now is really to try to get to them," he told AFP.

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