The Philippines: Typhoon brings fierce winds, rain

Officials estimate 280 people have died as a result of Typhoon Bopha, which made landfall Tuesday. Flooding and mudslides have affected most of the countryside in the Compostela Valley. The typhoon caused power outages and ruined roads and bridges. 

AP Photo/Karlos Manlupig
Residents walk back to their homes after Typhoon Bopha made landfall in Compostela Valley in southeastern Philippines Tuesday.

The Philippines' strongest typhoon this year was headed towards tourist destinations on Wednesday after hitting a southern island, destroying homes, causing landslides and killing at least 280 people, but many more are reported dead and missing.

Typhoon Bopha, with central winds of 120 kph (75 mph) and gusts of up to 160 kph (93 mph), was expected to hit beach resorts and dive spots in northern Palawan, the weather bureau said on Wednesday.

Interior Minister Manuel Roxas confirmed 82 people had died and scores were missing after Bopha made landfall on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the death toll estimate rose to 280.

About 20 typhoons hit the Philippines annually, often causing death and destruction. Typhoon Washi killed 1,500 people in 2011.

More than half those confirmed killed, many buried under mud and collapsed houses, were from an area near an army outpost in Compostela Valley province on southern Mindanao.

"We have already accounted 43 bodies and we're still looking for more, including nine soldiers," said Major-General Ariel Bernardo, an army division commander. 

Buried under mud 

Bernardo said two dozen people had been pulled from under layers of mud and were being treated in local hospitals. Video showed dozens of survivors, their faces covered with thick cake of mud, at a shelter in the province.

Mudslides and massive flooding caused by swollen rivers inundated most farms in Compostela Valley.

"In the town of Nabunturan, our farms were totally wiped out, there was flooding in every barangay (village)," police Major Hector Grijaldo. "All banana plantations were totally wiped out. What we see standing are coconut trees, all others were either uprooted or felled."

Coastal areas in nearby Davao Oriental province also bore the brunt of Bopha's fierce winds and rain.

Rommil Mitra, provincial police chief, said 52 people were reported killed in Boston and Cateel towns, most of them crushed by fallen tress, collapsed homes and flying debris.

"The winds were really very strong," Mitra said. "I was told the force of the wind could even lift an army truck loaded with troops from the ground."

Most of the affected areas remained isolated due to power outages, lack of communications and destroyed roads and bridges. Helicopters were ferrying troops in search and rescue operations.

Tens of thousands of people remained in temporary shelter areas as local officials appealed for food, water and warm clothes for displaced families. Schools remained closed and dozens of domestic flights were suspended on Wednesday.

(Reporting By Manuel Mogato and Rosemarie Francisco; Editing by Michael Perry)

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