MANILA, Philippines (AP) – Typhoon Durian tore through the eastern Philippines on Thursday with winds of up to 139 mph, killing at least 109 people and cutting off power to thousands of homes, officials said.

Dozens of people were missing, and 200 body bags were being shipped to the disaster zone at the request of provincial officials.

With power and phone lines downed by powerful winds, helicopters were carrying out aerial surveillance of cut off areas.

“Our rescue teams are overstretched rescuing people on rooftops,” said Glen Rabonza, head of the national Office of Civil Defense.

Fernando Gonzales, governor of badly hit Albay province, said 108 bodies had been found but that recovery operations were continuing. The figure did not include at least one person killed in adjacent Camarines Sur province, which reported that its capital was flattened.

Undersecretary Dr. Graciano Yumul of the Department of Science and Technology said the storm was particularly damaging because wind gusts hit 165 mph when Durian came ashore Thursday in Catanduanes, an island province with no mountains to break the storm’s momentum.

“So it really destroyed the island that it hit,” Yumul said. “That is the reason you are seeing the kind of destruction you are seeing right now.

A mudslide swept down on the village of Padang at the foot of the Mayon volcano, and at least 20 bodies were recovered there, said Noel Rosal, mayor of Legazpi city, capital of badly hit Albay province.

“It’s terrible,” he told The Associated Press by phone after visiting the village Friday. “Based on our interviews with residents and village officials, more than 100 were killed or missing.”

Some victims had their clothes ripped off as they were swept away by the mudslide.

, he said.

“I could not bear to look at some of them,” Rosal said.

Elsewhere in Albay, 26 people were killed in Santo Domingo and 13 were missing, while another nine deaths were reported in the town of Daraga, said Jukes Nunez of the Provincial Disaster Coordinating Council.

About 30 people were injured by boulders and roofing materials in Padang and taken to hospitals, Rosal said.

Jukes Nunez of the Albay Provincial Disaster Coordinating Council said many parts of Legazpi were still flooded Friday morning.

“The request for rescue is overwhelming,” he said. “The disaster managers are victims themselves.”

The typhoon weakened early Friday as it moved north of Mindoro island, south of Manila, with sustained winds of 94 mph and gusts of up to 116 mph as it headed toward the South China Sea.

Rescuers struggled against strong winds to rescue residents whose roofs were torn off, exposing them to rain and flying sheets of metal, Naga Mayor Jessie Robredo told the AP by cell phone. With telephone lines down, many residents whose houses were uprooted by the wind sought help by sending cell phone text messages.

“I’ve received SMS messages of 10 small houses being blown away by the wind and many others getting damaged,” Robredo said.

The “super typhoon” – the fourth to hit the Philippines in as many months – was packing sustained winds of 121 mph and gusts of up to 139 mph, the weather bureau said.

The civil defense office said electricity was cut off to thousands of people in Bicol and 10 towns in nearby Quezon province, while nearly 4,000 ferry passengers were stranded after the coast guard grounded all vessels.

In late September, Typhoon Xangsane left 230 people dead and missing in and around Manila. Typhoon Cimaron killed 19 people and injured 58 others last month, and earlier this month, Chebi sliced through the central Luzon region, killing one.

About 20 typhoons and tropical storms hit the Philippines each year.

AP-ES-12-01-06 0044EST


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