MARAGUNDON, Philippines – A powerful typhoon sliced through the Philippines (search) Friday, forcing nearly 170,000 people to flee homes to higher ground even as Filipinos struggled to recover from an earlier storm that killed more than 420 and left possibly hundreds more missing.
Mudslides and flash floods earlier in the week have turned parts of Quezon province and other areas facing the Pacific Ocean into a sea of mud littered with bodies, uprooted trees, collapsed homes and bridges.
"We're getting reports of bodies still flowing in the rivers," said air force spokesman Lt. Col. qu Padilla.
The were conflicting reports on casualties from the earlier storm with police and civil defense authorities providing a confirmed count of 422 dead and 177 missing. The military said there were 479 dead and 560 missing, but regional commander Maj. Gen. Pedro Cabuay cautioned that his figures came from local officials that could not be immediately confirmed.
The latest storm, Typhoon Nanmadol (search), made landfall late Thursday along the northeast coast with sustained winds of up to 115 mph and gusts of up to 138 mph. The storm roared across the Philippines on Friday, slamming many of the same areas hit by the earlier storm.
Schools and government offices remained closed Friday in Manila and the rest of the country, the presidential office announced. The coast guard prevented ferries, small boats and fishermen from leaving ports, and the air force said the bad weather had basically grounded its rescue fleet.
The typhoon drenched Manila and most of the country, causing flooding on some streets and temporary power outages in the capital.
In coastal Mercedes town, 145 miles southeast of Manila, about 2,000 people moved into a school as heavy rains and strong winds lashed the area. Similar evacuations took place throughout the region, where people took refugee in sturdy buildings.
The Office of Civil Defense reported as many as 168,000 people have been evacuated.
Rough seas and debris forced a navy gunboat to turn around after it tried to bring food and medicine to Real, in Quezon province (search), the town hardest hit by the previous storm. A landslide there earlier this week killed at least 150, said navy spokesman Capt. Geronimo Malabanan.
Meanwhile, survivors from the earlier storm sifted through piles of mud, which in some towns was ankle deep, for clothes and belongings. Soldiers, police and medical workers trekked with relief supplies across flood-ravaged roads and bare mountains to reach towns cut off by landslides.
In the town of Infanta in Quezon province, east of Manila (search), where at least 100 died, officials allowed residents to briefly leave evacuation centers to retrieve belongings from damaged homes, but warned them to return because of the typhoon.
"We are not concerned so much about saving property. We just want to save lives," said Infanta Mayor Filipina America.
About 400 troops set out for Real on foot with relief supplies in their backpacks and in boxes perched on their heads, inching along a route blocked by up to 20 landslides, said regional military commander Maj. Gen. Pedro Cabuay.
"They will carry as many supplies as they can," he said.
Television footage showed landslide-hit towns with mud-covered bodies laid out in common areas, where anguished mothers wept for their children. Fathers and brothers, meanwhile, clawed through mud in a desperate search for missing loved ones.
One woman frantically called ABS-CBN television, begging to be rescued from a rooftop.
"All my relatives are dead. I survived because I was able to go to the roof," she said. "My sister is dead, my husband is dead."
The Philippines is hit by about 20 storms and typhoons a year. A typhoon and another storm last week killed at least 87 people and left 80 others missing in the east.