DARAGA, Philippines -- The Red Cross estimated yesterday that up to 1,000 people may have died in the typhoon that unleashed walls of black mud on entire villages in the Philippines. The country's president declared a state of national calamity.
Typhoon Durian struck the Philippines with winds reaching 165 miles per hour and torrential rains on Thursday, causing ash and boulders from Mayon volcano on Luzon island to swamp villages around its base -- a scene Philippine Senator Richard Gordon described yesterday as a "war zone."
Hopes of finding any survivors beneath the volcanic mud, debris, and boulders had virtually vanished. Bodies were buried in mass graves to prevent them from decomposing in the tropical heat.
Gordon, who heads the Philippine National Red Cross, said the death toll could reach 1,000 people. " Whole families may have been wiped out," he told the Associated Press by telephone.
The Red Cross has thus far recorded at least 406 deaths, with 398 others missing, based on figures provided by mayors of devastated towns in Albay Province, which was affected worst by the storm. The government placed the number of dead at 324, with 302 missing and 438 injured.