Typhoon Bopha kills at least 52 in Philippines

Thousands seek refuge as winds of 210km/h cause carnage on island of Mindanao

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 December, 2012, 6:14am


Typhoon Bopha killed at least 52 people in the Philippines yesterday as the strongest storm to hit the country this year wreaked devastation.

ABS-CBN television said 43 died in one southern town that was in the direct path of Bopha's 210km/h winds soon after it struck land on Mindanao island's east coast at dawn.

"I've counted 43 bodies on the floor," reporter Vina Araneta told the station from a government building that she said had been converted into a temporary mortuary in New Bataan town.

The military said a landslide destroyed a Philippine Army patrol base in a mountainous area of the town, while a local official said an army truck laden with soldiers and civilians was swept away in a flash flood.

Neither the civil defence office in Manila nor the armed forces could give official confirmation of the 43 reported deaths, saying their rescuers were having a hard time reaching the remote town.

Officials said there were nine confirmed deaths, all but one of them occurring on Mindanao island in the country's south. Three of the victims were crushed by falling trees.

Four fishermen were also reported missing off Mindanao's east coast, said Freddie Bendulo, planning and development officer of Davao Oriental province.

By early evening a weakened Bopha was streaking across the Sulu Sea, having changed course westward in the afternoon after briefly threatening the central tourist islands of Bohol, Cebu and Negros.

The typhoon brought driving rain and strong winds, toppling trees and power lines, causing localised flooding and forcing more than 56,000 to seek refuge in emergency shelters.

Winds blew roofs off some buildings and residents of coastal and low-lying communities in Mindanao moved into shelters as floods hit some areas.

Television footage showed logs being swept down Mindanao's Sumilao river and utility workers cutting up fallen trees that were blocking highways.

A total of 146 flights to and from Mindanao and the central islands had been grounded since Monday night and more than 3,000 ferry passengers were stranded as vessels were ordered to stay in port, said a civil defence update.

Large parts of Mindanao, which is not normally hit by typhoons, were still without electricity last night, it said.