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Rescuers try to reach Philippines storm survivors

20 października, 2010

Typhoon Megi inched away from the Philippines on Wednesday after killing 19 people, as relief workers scrambled to deliver aid to remote towns that were devastated by the storm.

The governor of the hardest-hit province of Isabela, Faustino Dy said that residents in three coastal towns had suffered massive damage to their homes and were left with limited food supplies after huge waves washed away roads.

"Their food supply is only up to Sunday. But going there is very difficult. There is no road to reach them," Dy told reporters in Cauayan, the closest city to the worst-hit towns.

Dy, who had flown by helicopter to the devastated areas, said that as many as 20,000 people were affected.

Many of them had survived by fleeing into the mountains before Megi hit, he and other officials said.

Regional social welfare chief Arnel Garcia said the government planned to send food and tents to the affected towns of Maconacon, Palanan and Divilacan but that both air and sea travel were dangerous.

"Helicopters have to pass through the mountains and the mountain ranges are often covered with clouds," Garcia said.

US ambassador Harry Thomas said in a statement that US military personnel and equipment that was already in the Philippines for a joint exercise would be diverted for typhoon relief.

"My embassy team is in constant contact with Philippine authorities and NGO (non-governmental organisation) representatives to determine how we can be of further assistance," Thomas said in a statement issued by the embassy.

Megi smashed mostly farming and fishing areas of northern Luzon with gusts of 260 kilometres (160 miles) an hour on Monday, making it the strongest typhoon in the world this year.

The three million residents of Isabela province and other areas of the Cagayan Valley farming region were the worst hit.

The government raised the death toll to 19 on Wednesday, up from 14 the previous day, after more detailed reports from around Luzon were compiled.

The civil defence bureau said it was still sheltering over 10,000 people in evacuation centres across northern Luzon while roads were being cleared.

Although the typhoon was already over the South China Sea, the government weather station said it had remained almost stationary on Wednesday, hovering over the western coast of the Philippines.

The typhoon, which is still packing maximum gusts of 210 kilometres (130 miles) per hour, is expected to continue hovering throughout the day before moving northeast towards southern China, the weather station said.

The first level of a four-step storm alert remained in effect over several provinces in the northern Philippines due to continuing rain from the typhoon.

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