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Philippines Typhoon Death Toll Surpasses 400

Residents evacuate to higher grounds at the flash flood-hit village of Andap, New Bataan township, Compostela Valley in southern Philippines, December 5, 2012.

Rescuers in the Philippines are searching for survivors and rushing emergency aid to a quarter million people displaced two days after a powerful typhoon swept across the south, killing nearly 400 people.

By Thursday, Typhoon Bopha had moved west of the Philippines into the South China Sea, where forecasters said it could eventually take aim at Vietnam or China.

The National Disaster Agency put the death toll at 379, most of which were concentrated in the province of Compostela Valley, a mountainous gold mining area, and the neighboring province of Davao Oriental, on the eastern coast of the southern Philippine island of Mindanao.

In some towns few structures were left standing, say officials.

Authorities are searching for nearly 400 people still missing and working to provide emergency shelter for 250,000 people who have been packed temporarily into schools and government buildings, said Philippine Red Cross head Richard Gordon.

"Access on life lines has been affected by way of roads that have been clogged, even communications. Cell phone use has not been fully energized, and power has not been fully energized, and water has been contaminated by ocean surges that have contaminated the deep well pipes," Gordon said.

Stunned survivors searched for missing family members among rows of mud-stained bodies, while others rummaged through the remains of their houses that were destroyed by the storm.

Many areas were still inaccessible because of washed-out roads, destroyed bridges and power outages, which brought powerful winds and heavy rains to the area beginning Tuesday. Gordon said the storm will have a devastating impact on people's future.

"Most of all, livelihood has been severely affected, they cannot plan, they have no way to plant their crops too."

The U.S. State Department has offered disaster aid and extended its condolences for the destruction and loss of life.

President Benigno Aquino says the government is investigating why an evacuation center and military camp were apparently located in flood-prone areas.

But officials say the government was better prepared to deal with Bopha than with Tropical Storm Washi, which killed about 1,200 people in the southern island of Mindanao last year.