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Last Updated: Saturday, 2 December 2006, 02:18 GMT
Many feared dead in Philippines
Destroyed houses in the Sarangani village, Quezon province
A clean-up is under way following Typhoon Durian

Hundreds of people are feared dead in the Philippines after a powerful typhoon battered the country, triggering mudslides.

Emergency officials said at least 200 people had been killed. The Red Cross says many more are still missing.

Areas near Mayon volcano, south-east of Manila, were among the worst-hit by Typhoon Durian.

A local mayor said several villages had been wiped out, with only roofs jutting out of the mud and debris.

"It's terrible. We now call this place a black desert," said Noel Rosal, mayor of Legazpi, the capital of Albay province, after visiting one stricken village.

Rains caused by the typhoon brought mud and rocks down hillsides.

The full extent of the damage wrought by Durian is not yet known because power and telephone lines have been brought down, but as many as 22,000 people across the region are thought to have been affected.

All the shops are closed and we are living by the light of kerosene lamps. We are very afraid
Maria Salvino
Legazpi resident

At least three people were reported killed in the town of Calapan in Oriental Mindoro province.

Helicopters are carrying out aerial surveillance in cut-off areas.

"We expect a heavy population to be affected by the typhoon," said Philippine civil defence office spokesman Anthony Golez.

The villages worst affected are Daraga, Busay and Santo Domingo, near Legazpi, 350km (220 miles) south of the capital, Manila.

Body bags

Thousands of villagers only returned home in September having been evacuated amid fears the Mayon volcano was about to erupt.

Mayon, the Philippines' most active volcano, had been rumbling for months and began emitting lava in mid-July.

Map of the Philippines

Head of the national office of civil defence, Glen Rabonza, said 200 body bags were being shipped to the disaster zone at the request of provincial officials.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has ordered the military to assist medical teams in reaching submerged villages.

One Legazpi resident, Maria Salvino, told the BBC News website how dozens of houses, including her own, were badly damaged by the force of the typhoon.

"The wind and the rain beat down hard. My house is flooded and our roof has been destroyed. We have no power and because there is no water, we are surviving on fizzy drinks," she said.

"All the shops are closed and we are living by the light of kerosene lamps. We are very afraid."

Durian - named after a spiky Asian fruit - is the fourth typhoon to hit the Philippines in the last three months.

It was expected to weaken into a tropical storm as it moves into the South China Sea.

In September, nearly 200 people were killed when Typhoon Xangsane hit the north and centre of the country.

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