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Last Updated: Monday, 4 December 2006, 12:02 GMT
Philippine storm toll set to rise
Soldiers carry a victim of the mudslides in the shadow of Mt Mayon
Hopes of finding more survivors in the mud are fading
More than 1,000 people are feared dead in the Philippines after a typhoon triggered devastating mudslides that swamped several villages.

Around 450 people are known to have died and 600 are still missing after heavy rains brought down walls of mud from Mayon volcano, officials say.

President Gloria Arroyo has declared a national calamity.

Typhoon Durian is now hurtling towards Vietnam, prompting the evacuation of tens of thousands of people.

Thick sludge

As of Monday, official figures put the death toll at 450, with 507 people injured and 599 still missing.

Hopes of finding many more survivors were fading.

Dark mud surrounds villages and covers the usually green hills

"At this time, no more. I'm sorry," Juan Garcia, mayor of the devastated town of Guinobatan, said when asked about survivors.

"It's almost impossible. They have been buried under sand and boulders. I don't think they can survive. It's impossible for anyone to survive," he added.

Whole villages were engulfed by mud that poured from the slopes of the volcano, some 350km (220 miles) south-east of Manila.

Relief efforts have been hampered by access problems, with rescuers having to walk for hours to reach affected areas and resorting to using their bare hands to pull bodies from the thick sludge.

More than 40,000 people have been displaced, with many now crammed into makeshift shelters in schools and churches.

Forced evacuations

Mrs Arroyo has released 1bn pesos ($20m, 10m) for reconstruction work and vowed further efforts to find survivors.

"All resources of the government will continue to be mobilised without let-up as we pin hope against hope on the search of survivors," she said in a statement.

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

Vietnam is now braced for Durian to hit south central provinces on Monday night.

The authorities in Khanh Hoa province had evacuated nearly 14,000 people to safer areas and were forcing another 10,000 at risk to leave their homes, the Associated Press reports.

Ships were being called back to shore, although at least one fisherman was reported to have died and others were missing after their boats sank while trying to take shelter.

In pictures: Philippine mudslides
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