Typhoon Fengshen lashed the Philippines for a second day today leaving at least 80 people dead, but the death toll could rise significantly after a passenger ferry capsized carrying more than 740 passengers and crew.
Villagers found four bodies, children’s slippers and life jackets that washed ashore today near the stranded MV Princess of Stars. Port captain Nestor Ponteres said the ferry’s owner, Sulpicio Lines, had lost radio contact with the ship and the fate of its passengers was unknown.
The death toll included 59 people who drowned in the central province of Iloilo, with another 40 missing, Gov. Neil Tupaz said. “Almost all the towns are covered by water. It’s like an ocean,” Tupaz said, adding thousands have been displaced in the province that is home to 1.7 million people.
The four dead washed ashore, including a man and a woman who bound themselves together, were believed to have been on the vessel, which ran aground a few miles off central Sibuyan island Saturday, then capsized, said Mayor Nanette Tansingco of San Fernando.
The typhoon lashed the central Philippines for four hours Saturday, setting off landslides and floods, knocking out power and blowing off roofs.
Handpicked crowd views torch relay
Olympic torchbearers trotted through the cordoned streets of the Tibetan capital of Lhasa on Saturday as China displayed its grip on a region that only three months ago was ravaged by bloody rioting.
Militarized police stood arms distance apart along a route that ended at the foot of the towering 1,000-room Potala Palace, the abandoned former residence of Tibetan Buddhism’s exiled leader.
Local authorities used the event to attack the Dalai Lama, exiled spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists. “Tibet’s sky will never change, and the red flag with five stars will forever flutter high above it,” said Zhang Qingli, secretary-general of the Communist Party in Tibet. “We will certainly be able to totally smash the splittist schemes of the Dalai Lama clique.”
Only a few hundred handpicked spectators were allowed along the route to cheer the torch. Most Lhasa residents were told to stay home and watch the relay on television.
Battlefields deadly to foreign forces
Roadside bombs killed five foreign troops and five government soldiers Saturday, part of a surge of violence that has made Afghanistan’s battlefields deadlier for foreign forces than those in Iraq.
The U.S. administration already has highlighted the Iraq-Afghan comparison to lobby its NATO allies – with limited success – to commit more forces to Afghanistan for a conflict likely to test the West’s stomach for a long, grinding war.
Violence continues despite the more than 60,000 foreign troops in the country and fresh pledges of financial aid to President Hamid Karzai’s struggling government.
Marvin Weinbaum, a former State Department official and now an Afghan expert at the Washington-based Middle East Institute, said the rising casualties would sharpen the focus on Afghanistan in the U.S. presidential race. “What’s being brought home is the nature of the conflict. It’s in the true fashion of a guerrilla operation, and we’re not prepared for it,” Weinbaum said.
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