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International Aid Rushed to Typhoon-Stricken Philippines

International aid agencies are rushing emergency relief supplies to hundreds of thousands of typhoon victims in the Philippines. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva that latest figures from official sources in the Philippines put the number of dead at more than 500, with more than 700 missing and 1,000 injured.

The Philippines has been hit by four powerful storms since the end of September. The latest, Typhoon Durian, made landfall on December 1, packing high winds and heavy rains.

UNICEF spokesman Michael Bociurkiw says the storm triggered massive flooding and landslides that buried everything in their path.

"You have trees, other items, rocks the size [of] refrigerators, sometimes trucks come hurtling down," he said. "It is just impossible for people to get out of its path. And, especially for children. They are the most vulnerable because of their inability to run fast and escape."

According to latest estimates, more than 1.5 million people have been affected by the typhoons and nearly 80,000 homes have been completely destroyed.

Bociurkiw says UNICEF is sending 4,000 family size tents, large water-storage tanks, mosquito nets, food and other relief items to the area.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is appealing for more than $7 million to help 200,000 people during the next nine months.

Red Cross spokeswoman, Anna Nelson, says volunteers and staff in the Philippines have provided emergency food relief to around 9,000 people and plans to provide non-food items such as blankets and sleeping mats to around 40,000 people.

"Our head of delegation in the Philippines tells me that it is still very hard to gauge exactly to what extent relief is getting through," she said. "Water is being restored in the cities, but he says in the countryside, the situation remains dire."

The World Health Organization says the typhoon-struck areas lack safe drinking water. It says much of the sanitary and health infrastructure has broken down. It warns the risk of water borne diseases such as cholera, diarrhea and malaria is great, making water purification tablets essential.