MANILA, Philippines – The death toll from a typhoon that ravaged the Philippine capital and northern farming regions has risen to 76, with 69 others missing in floods and landslides, officials said Sunday.
Most of the additional deaths were caused by drowning, landslides or falling debris as Typhoon Xangsane roared across Manila and nearby provinces on Luzon island Thursday. The fatalities were only reported over the weekend due to downed communication lines, officials said.
Xangsane has since hit Vietnam and been downgraded to a tropical storm.
Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo appealed for public patience as authorities struggled to fully restore power, communications and water supplies, and to clear roads of debris and fallen trees three days after the typhoon.
"The tragedy has been disheartening but our nation needs to be strong to cope with and to overcome these trying times," presidential spokesman Ignacio Bunye said in a statement.
Arroyo on Saturday presided over a meeting of the National Disaster Coordinating Council, and ordered authorities to intensify a massive cleanup in the capital and beyond. As complaints mounted, she ordered power restored in the capital within 48 hours.
About 72 percent of power in Luzon, hit by a total blackout Thursday, had been restored Sunday. However, efforts to fully restore electricity were being stymied by downed power poles and giant steel pylons, officials said.
"We're trying to abide by the president's order but there was just too much structural damage," said Jocelyn Abrera, an information officer of the state-run National Transmission Corp.
About 20 typhoons and storms lash the Philippines yearly, but many people seemed overwhelmed by the extent of damage caused by Xangsane, which blew out of the country Friday.
Many Manila residents crammed hotels and malls to escape the heat and inconvenience in their powerless homes. Some gasoline stations closed due to delays in supply deliveries and panic buying, officials said.
They said Internet and cable TV were still out in some areas, and users have complained of sluggish cell phone services.
The typhoon, the worst to hit the bustling capital in over a decade, left many villages still littered with fallen trees and debris after bright sunshine returned Sunday.
About 2,000 soldiers were helping clear fallen trees, billboards and power poles in Manila, the military said.
In a desperate bid to hasten the cleanup, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority Chairman Bayani Fernando announced a cash prize for residents who help clear fallen trees and turn them into artworks.
The storm affected more than 1 million people in 17 central and northern provinces and in metropolitan Manila, and nearly 105,000 remained in 198 emergency government shelters, the National Disaster Coordinating Council said.
As authorities grappled with Xangsane's aftermath, government forecasters on Sunday found a new tropical depression swirling in the Pacific Ocean about 630 miles east of southern Luzon with winds of up to 34 miles per hour, officials said.
It was moving at 7 mph toward the northern tip of the Philippines and Taiwan, and was expected to strengthen in the new few days. The depression, locally named Neneng, was not expected to hit the Philippines unless it changes course, forecaster Peter Kindipan said.