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Philippines: Typhoon Bopha death toll rises

The death toll from a powerful storm battering the southern Philippines has risen to about 200, as rescue teams head for affected areas.

Report by BBC Online

At least 156 people are known to have died in Compostela Valley province alone when Typhoon Bopha struck Mindanao, local officials told the BBC.

Rescuers have reached most areas, but have had difficulty getting to some isolated communities.

Many were evacuated ahead of the storm, now over the western island of Palawan.

The typhoon is expected to move out into the South China Sea on Thursday.

Fe Maestre, government information officer in Compostela Valley, told the BBC that rescuers there were working with the army and relief agencies.

He said an estimated 70% of the area’s agricultural land had been damaged.

‘Torrents of water’

Compostela Valley province, in eastern Mindanao, was said to be the hardest-hit area. Neighbouring Davao Oriental province was also badly affected, with reports of about 50 people killed.

In Andap village, in Compostela Valley, water and mud rushed down mountainous slopes to engulf a school and a village hall serving as evacuation centres.

At least 43 people were killed there, with more reported missing and injured – including soldiers sent to help with evacuations.

“They thought that they were already secure in a safe area, but they didn’t know the torrents of water would go their way,” Compostela Valley Provincial Governor Arturo Uy told local media.

Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman said body bags and other emergency supplies would be rushed to affected areas.

“The bodies are left lying on the ground in the open in New Bataan [town containing Andap village] and we don’t want to risk the spread of disease,” she told AFP news agency.

Davao Oriental Governor Corazon Malanyaon said roads to dozens of towns were impassable because of fallen trees and collapsed bridges, and getting into them was like “running an obstacle course”.

She said initial reports indicated that in one town, Cateel, 95% of the buildings had been damaged. Twenty-three people had drowned or were buried under fallen trees or buildings there, she said.

Across the affected provinces, rescuers have also pulled out dozens of people from the mud, many of whom are now being treated in evacuation centres and hospitals. Most suffered facial wounds or limb injuries.

Dozens of domestic flights and ferry services in the central and south of the country were suspended, and schools and businesses were closed while the storm passed.

Bopha comes a year after Typhoon Washi killed more than 1,300 people in the southern Philippines.

The storm struck from 16 to 18 December, devastating the cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan on the island’s north coast.

Many of those who died were sleeping as Typhoon Washi caused rivers to burst their banks, leading to landslides. Entire villages were washed away.

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