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Philippines, rebels declare truces in typhoon-devastated areas

Erik De Castro / Reuters

Typhoon survivors sit at the entrance of a tent Sunday with the coffin of a relative who was killed by a falling tree during Typhoon Bopha, in Montevista town, Compostela Valley, southern Philippines.

DAVAO CITY, Philippines -- The Philippine government and Maoist rebels have declared truces in two southern provinces devastated by a typhoon last week as the army concentrates on relief and many rebels recover from the disaster, a commander said Monday.

Typhoon Bopha killed 647 people and caused crop damage worth $210 million.

The most intense storm to hit the Philippines this year wiped out about 90 percent of three coastal towns in Davao Oriental province and buried an entire town in neighboring Compostela Valley province under mud.

Communist New People's Army guerrillas are active in those two worst-hit provinces, which are on Mindanao island.

Mission shift
Maj. Gen. Ariel Bernardo, an army division commander, said he had ordered troops to shift from combat to relief operations, and to help deliver food and rebuild communities.

PhotoBlog: Aerial photos reveal damage from Typhoon Bopha

"We heard the rebels had declared an informal cease-fire, we welcome that because we can all concentrate on helping typhoon victims," Bernardo told Reuters.

"I believe many of these rebels were also affected and could be in the shelter areas," he added.

The death toll stood at 647 on Monday, with nearly 800 missing and more than 1,000 injured, the national disaster agency said in its latest tally. About 100 fishermen were feared lost between Mindanao and Indonesia's Sulawesi island.

Typhoon heads back toward Philippines after killing nearly 600

The Philippines' social welfare department and the United Nations are appealing for help as humanitarian agencies bring in food, water, medicines and shelter material for more than 5.4 million people affected by the storm.

Typhoon Bopha is weakening but the damage in the Philippines is mounting. The death toll has reached 420 and hundreds remain missing. NBCNews.com's Dara Brown reports.

New People's Army guerrillas have been battling government forces in various parts of the Philippines for decades.

The government signed a peace deal with the country's biggest Muslim rebel group, which also operates in the south, in October.

Bernardo said troops had cleared roads of debris and mud and restored links to cut-off communities to allow in food and other supplies.

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Television pictures showed entire coastal areas in Davao Oriental leveled to the ground.

About 20 typhoons hit the Philippines every year, often causing death and destruction. Almost exactly a year ago, typhoon Washi killed nearly 1,500 people in Mindanao, but most storms make landfall further north.

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