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Death toll mounts across disaster-struck Asia

world Updated: Oct 05, 2009 10:13 IST
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The death toll from a week of catastrophes across Asia-Pacific neared 2,000 on Sunday as rescuers raced to reach the survivors of a series of earthquakes, tsunamis and typhoons.

Emergency workers held out scant hope of finding more people alive in the wreckage left by the Indonesian quake, leaving clean-up teams the grim task of retrieving the decaying bodies of thousands of victims from the rubble.

The military and medics pushed deeper into rural areas where whole villages have been buried by landslides, and more international rescue teams arrived with sniffer dogs and specialist equipment.

The United Nations said at least 1,100 have died in the 7.6-magnitude quake which struck on Wednesday, but the real toll is expected to soar into the thousands.

"What rescuers say is that the worst bit is that they're finding a finger or hand here, a foot there, and they're trying to piece people together," said Bob McKerrow, head of the International Federation of the Red Cross in Indonesia.

In the Philippines, Typhoon Parma killed at least 15 people just a week after tropical storm Ketsana brought the heaviest rains in more than four decades, leaving nearly 300 dead.

Many areas in the north of the main Luzon island were blacked out and cut off from communication as Parma left the country and hovered over the South China Sea.

The state weather bureau warned that the worst may not be over, as typhoon Melor, lying some 2,000 kilometres (1,200 miles) to the east in the Pacific Ocean, may suck Parma back to the country.

"It is possible that it (Parma) will make U-turn and will hit Luzon again," forecaster Nathaniel Cruz said, adding that Parma was already "interacting" with Melor, preventing it from moving farther out to sea.

The toll in Vietnam from Ketsana jumped to 162 on Sunday with hundreds more injured, an official said, adding urgency to a Red Cross appeal launched to help more than 200,000 storm victims.

Another 13 people remain missing and 616 are injured, said the official from the national flood and storm control committee in Hanoi.

An estimated three million people in Vietnam have been affected by Ketsana, said the Red Cross, which on Friday launched an international appeal for 4.75 million dollars to help 210,000 of the neediest victims.

More emergency aid reached southern Laos Sunday after the weather system left at least 24 dead last week in one of Asia's poorest nations. The toll in neighbouring Cambodia remained at 17.

The number of people feared killed in the devastating tsunami that pounded the Samoa islands and Tonga neared 190, according to officials.

Ferocious waves were unleashed by a 8.0 magnitude undersea quake which rattled the region early Tuesday, devastating American Samoa, neighbouring Samoa and the Pacific island nation Tonga.

The confirmed death toll remained at 176 on Sunday but there were fears for the lives of 12 missing people.

Hundreds of thousands of people in southern India were evacuated after torrential rains and floods swept away homes, leaving at least 207 people dead, officials said Sunday.

The death toll in the state of Karnataka stood at 170, while 37 people were killed in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh, authorities said.

"The deaths are largely due to houses collapsing, drownings and flash floods," H.V. Parashwanath, secretary of Karnataka's disaster monitoring agency, told AFP.