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Safety, Need Compete In Typhoon-hit Philippines

Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, who visited New Bataan on Wednesday, saw the town covered in 15 centimeters (6 inches) of mud. He was told by townspeople that a pond or a small lake atop the mountain collapsed, causing torrents of water to rampage like a waterfall.

"There is hardly any structure that is undamaged in New Bataan town," he said. "Entire families may have been washed away."

New Bataan residents led reporters from Manila's GMA Television to a mound of felled trees that were swept down from the hills. At least five bodies were jammed beneath the rubble, with no sign that anyone had attempted to retrieve them. It was uncertain if there were more bodies at the site.

Dozens of people stared blankly at their devastated town as they waited at a government information center, hoping for word of missing relative. Authorities planned to display about 80 newly washed bodies in coffins at a Roman Catholic church Friday, hoping relatives will identify them.

The military said Thursday that 214 people died in Compostela Valley and 151 in nearby Davao Oriental province, with 31 others killed in other central and southern provinces. The typhoon, which hit the region with winds of 175 kph (109 mph), was over the South China Sea on Thursday and was expected to dissipate by the weekend.

Deadly floods are common on resource-rich Mindanao Island. Last December at the island's opposite end, 1,200 people died as a powerful storm overflowed rivers. Then and now, raging flash floods, logs and large rocks carried people to their deaths.

The Bureau of Mines and Geosciences had issued warnings before the typhoon to people living in flood-prone areas, but in the Compostela Valley, nearly every area is flood-prone.

Bureau Director Leo Jasareno said about 80 percent of the valley is a danger zone due to a combination of factors, including the mountains and rivers, as well as logging that has stripped hills of trees that minimize landslides and absorb rainwater. Logging has been banned since last year's fatal flooding, but it continues illegally.

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