A powerful typhoon that ravaged the southern Philippines, killing more than 270 people and leaving hundreds missing, could be headed for southern China.
Typhoon Bopha slammed into the southern island of Mindanao on Tuesday, toppling trees and blowing away thousands of homes with 210 km/h gusts before heading into the South China Sea.
A total of 253 people died in and around the mountain towns of New Bataan and Monkayo due to landslides and flash floods, civil defence chief Benito Ramos said, while 21 people were killed in other parts of Mindanao and the central islands. He said 279 other people were still missing.
Cabinet members Mar Roxas and Corazon Soliman, who flew to the south to inspect the damage, described scenes of utter devastation. "It is saddening to think entire families have been washed away," Interior Secretary Roxas said.
About 178,000 people remained huddled in evacuation centres, officials said. Rescuers struggled to reach areas cut off by the storm, where many more casualties might be found.
Philippine President Benigno Aquino said he hoped the country was learning from its frequent natural disasters, including the roughly 20 typhoons that hit each year.
"Any single casualty is a cause for distress. Our aim must always be about finding ways to lessen them," he said in Manila.
A Hong Kong Observatory spokesman said it was not unusual for the Philippines to be hit by typhoons in December as that area remained warm. It was too early to speculate whether the storm would affect Hong Kong.