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Scores reported dead as Philippines typhoon triggers flash flood

December 04, 2012|By Emily Alpert
  • A woman walks amongst debris next to her damaged house in the village of Andap, New Bataan town, Compostela Valley province on Wednesday, a day after Typhoon Bopha hit the province.
A woman walks amongst debris next to her damaged house in the village of Andap,… (Ted Aljibe / Agence France-Presse…)

Scores of people were reported dead Tuesday as Typhoon Bopha deluged the southern Philippines, toppling trees and triggering landslides as heavy rains and blasting winds pounded the islands.

The Philippines national disaster agency confirmed at least four people had died from falling trees and drownings as of Tuesday night local time. Media reports put the death toll at more than 70, including at least 33 people who perished on the island of Mindanao as floodwaters abruptly burst onto the village of New Bataan in the Compostela Valley.

The unexpected torrent claimed the life of a Philippine army sergeant who was washed away along with his company commander, national disaster chief Benito Ramos told the Philippine Daily Inquirer. The commander was reportedly rescued but remained unconscious.

In another village in the storm-battered valley, three children were killed, buried in wall of mud and boulders that tumbled from a mountain, the Associated Press reported.

“The only thing we could do was to save ourselves. It was too late for us to rescue them,” survivor Valentin Pabilana told the AP.

The reported death toll was expected to rise further when stricken areas now barred by debris can be reached. Landslides shut down roads and bridges in several areas, including in the Compostela Valley.

The typhoon, known in the Philippines as Pablo, is one of the worst storms to hit the Philippines this year, driving roughly 60,000 people from their homes and stranding more than 3,000 passengers in ports across the archipelago.

As the storm veered northwest on Tuesday evening, disaster officials estimated that the downpour exceeded half an inch hourly, with sustained winds of nearly 100 mph and gusts hitting 121 mph. Sixty-six commercial airline flights had been canceled as of Tuesday evening.

The Philippines is routinely hit by heavy storms, but experts argue their toll has been worsened by poor planning, which has led to preventable deaths. The southern islands are not usually in the path of such storms; officials said a deadly typhoon last year that claimed over 1,200 lives was exacerbated by a false sense of security in the southern stretches of the Philippine archipelago.

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