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Powerful typhoon kills at least 74 in Philippines

Source : AP
Last Updated: Wed, Dec 05, 2012 01:15 hrs

Torrential floods from a powerful typhoon engulfed emergency shelters and an army truck carrying soldiers and villagers who were fleeing their homes in the southern Philippines, raising the death toll from the storm to at least 74.

At least 43 of the victims drowned in one village. Rain accumulated atop a mountain and flooded down on Andap village in New Bataan town in hard-hit Compostela Valley province, Gov. Arturo Uy said. A school and village hall where evacuees were staying was swamped by the flash flood and an army truck carrying soldiers and villagers was washed away, according to Uy and army officials.

"They thought that they were already secure in a safe area, but they didn't know the torrents of water would go their way," Uy told DZBB radio Tuesday.

He said the town's death toll would rise because several uncounted bodies could not immediately be retrieved from floodwaters strewn with huge logs and debris.

Some 20 typhoons and storms lash the Philippines annually, but they more commonly hit the northern and central provinces of the archipelago. President Benigno Aquino III had appealed on national television for people to take storm warnings seriously.

About 60,000 people were staying in emergency shelters and more than 100 domestic flights were canceled.

Typhoon Bopha had winds of 175 kilometers per hour (109 miles per hour) and gusts of up to 210 kph (130 mph) when it made landfall around Davao Oriental province at dawn Tuesday. It knocked out power in two entire provinces, and its ferocious winds ripped roofs from homes and toppled trees.

Winds weakened to 140 kph (87 mph) with gusts up to 170 kph (106 mph) by evening. It had moved out to sea again by Wednesday morning.

Twenty-three people drowned or were pinned by fallen trees or collapsed houses in Davao Oriental province's coastal town of Cateel, which had the most deaths after New Bataan, Davao Oriental Gov. Corazon Malanyaon told the ABS-CBN TV network, citing police reports.

Some towns in the province were so battered that no roofs remained on buildings, Malanyaon said.

The other deaths included three children who were buried by a wall of mud and boulders that plunged down a mountain in Marapat village, also in Compostela Valley. Their bodies were wrapped in blankets by their grieving relatives and placed on a stage in a basketball court.

"The only thing we could do was to save ourselves. It was too late for us to rescue them," said Valentin Pabilana, who survived the landslide.

In Davao Oriental, a poor agricultural and gold-mining province about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) southeast of Manila, an elderly woman was killed when her house was struck by a falling tree, said Benito Ramos, who heads the government's disaster-response agency.

The other victims either drowned or were hit by trees, he said, adding that the death toll was expected to rise.

Bopha was the 16th tropical storm to hit the nation this year, and forecasters say one more could do so this year.

A rare storm in the southern Philippines last December killed more than 1,200 people and left many more homeless and traumatized, including in Cagayan de Oro city, where church bells pealed relentlessly on Tuesday to warn residents to scramble to safety as a major river started to swell.

In Compostela Valley, authorities halted mining operations and ordered villagers to evacuate to prevent a repeat of deadly losses from landslides and the collapse of mine tunnels in previous storms.

___

Associated Press writer Teresa Cerojano contributed to this report.



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