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Philippines hopes for survivors as strongest typhoon kills 325

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Thu, 6 Dec 2012 01:52 GMT
Author: Reuters
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By Erik de Castro

NEW BATAAN, Philippines, Dec 6 (Reuters) - Dozens of soldiers and rescue workers pulled out bodies from mud-drenched debris after the strongest typhoon this year killed at least 325 people in the southern Philippines, with hundreds still missing.

Hundreds of residents left homeless in Compostela Valley, the worst hit province decimated by flash flooding and destructive winds, were being evacuated by trucks to crowded shelters in town centers on Thursday.

Typhoon Bopha, with central winds of 115 kph (75 mph) and gusts of up to 145 kph (93 mph), was moving west-northwest of the central Philippines and was expected to be over the South China Sea on Friday.

Based on tallies from the national disaster agency, 325 people were killed and 379 were missing after Bopha triggered landslides and floods along the coast and in farming and mining towns inland in the southern Mindanao region.

The death toll could rise further, with local government officials reporting higher numbers of missing and dead.

About 20 typhoons hit the Philippines every year, often causing death and destruction. Almost exactly a year ago, Typhoon Washi killed 1,500 people in Mindanao.

Arturo "Arthur" Uy, governor of Compostela Valley, said latest estimates show 200 died and almost 600 remained missing in his province. Official tally by the disaster agency show 184 died and 356 missing in Compostela Valley.

Uy said search and rescue operations were continuing, particularly in far-flung areas in New Bataan town, where a three-year old child was plucked from under a crumpled house on Wednesday, more than 24 hours after the typhoon hit land. The child's mother and a sibling are missing.

"I believe we can rescue more people," Uy said.

"This is the first time a typhoon with signal number 3 crossed our province. We evacuated people from riverbanks and shorelines. But the floods and strong winds battered not just the riverbanks but also places where residents where supposed to be safe."

Uy said a village hall, health center and covered court in New Bataan, where residents took shelter ahead of the typhoon, were completely washed away by floods and mud.

Hundreds of thousands of people remained in shelters in more than a dozen provinces in the southern Philippines, as officials appealed for food, water and clothing.

Some residents in Compostela Valley started repairing their houses, while housewives washed mud-drenched clothes and used fallen trees for cooking in makeshift stoves outside homes.

(Additional reporting by Rosemarie Francisco and Manny Mogato)

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