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Typhoon death toll soars in Philippines

Dec. 5, 2012 at 7:20 AM   |   Comments

MANILA, Philippines, Dec. 5 (UPI) -- Typhoon Bopha ravaged the southern Philippines Wednesday, sending the death toll soaring to more than 200.

The Philippine Star and GMA News reported the number of people killed by Bopha, also called Pablo locally, had soared to at least 238 as heavy rains accompanying the storm unleashed flash floods and landslides on southern Mindanao Island.

The extremely dense Category 5 storm, measuring more than 500 miles in diameter, roared onto the densely populated island Tuesday with sustained winds of 110 mph, forcing more than 50,000 people out of their homes and into shelters.

The storm sent roofs flying, uprooted acres of coconut trees, and sent rivers and streams bursting over their banks. Schools remained closed in many cities and dozens of flights were canceled

Rescue officials said they feared many more bodies would be found in areas cut off from rest of the country by landslides, floods and downed communications, the Star said.

The report quoted the military in Mindanao as saying among those killed, dozens had died in flash floods and landslides in the farming and mining provinces of Compostela Valley.

"In New Bataan alone, 67 civilians and three of our soldiers died from flash flood," a command spokesman told the Star. At least 58 more people were missing while 154 people were injured.

On the island's Davao Oriental province, the local Disaster Risk Management Reduction and Management Council reported 81 fatalities either from flash floods, landslides or falling trees, the report said.

Disaster management officials said in addition to the rising death toll, authorities also feared massive damage to agriculture, homes and infrastructure.

"Everything is gone -- houses, crops," said a teacher in storm-hit Baganga, which faces the Pacific Ocean.

A government information officer in Compostela Valley told the BBC an estimated 70 percent of the province's agricultural land had been damaged.

The report said Bopha was far stronger than Typhoon Washi, which killed more than 1,200 people in the Philippines last year. The lower death toll was the result of better preparation, officials said.

The Philippine News Agency said Bopha was weakening and about half its original size as it moved toward Northern Palawan Wednesday but several areas along its path remained under public storm warnings.

The storm was forecast to move west northwest at 15 mph and expected to exit the Philippines through the South China Sea by Thursday afternoon.

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