Tuesday 22 May 2018

Hundreds perish in typhoon disaster

A resident searches for victims of Tuesday's devastating storm in New Bataan township, Compostela Valley in the southern Philippines (AP)
A resident searches for victims of Tuesday's devastating storm in New Bataan township, Compostela Valley in the southern Philippines (AP)
Fallen coconut trees after Typhoon Bopha made landfall in Compostela Valley in south-eastern Philippines (AP/Karlos Manlupig)
Soldiers assist local residents in flooded areas of the Philippines (AP/The Philippine Army)

A powerful typhoon that washed away emergency shelters, a military camp and possibly entire families in the southern Philippines has killed almost 350 people with nearly 400 missing, authorities said.

More bodies were retrieved from hardest-hit Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental provinces and six others impacted by Tuesday's storm, the Office of Civil Defence reported.

At least 200 of the victims died in Compostela Valley alone, including 78 villagers and soldiers who perished in a flash flood that swamped two emergency shelters and a military camp.

"Entire families may have been washed away," said Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, who visited New Bataan on Wednesday. The farming town of 45,000 people was a muddy wasteland of collapsed houses and coconut and banana trees felled by ferocious winds. Bodies of victims were laid on the ground for viewing by people searching for missing relatives. Some were badly mangled after being dragged by raging floodwaters over rocks and other debris. A man sprayed insecticide on the remains to keep away swarms of flies.

A father wept when he found the body of his child after lifting a plastic cover. A mother, meanwhile, went away in tears, unable to find her missing children. "I have three children," she said repeatedly, flashing three fingers before a TV cameraman.

In nearby Davao Oriental, the coastal province first struck by Typhoon Bopha as it blew from the Pacific Ocean, at least 115 people perished, mostly in three towns so battered that it was hard to find any buildings with roofs remaining, provincial officer Freddie Bendulo and other officials said. "We had a problem where to take the evacuees. All the evacuation centres have lost their roofs," Davao Oriental governor Corazon Malanyaon said.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies issued an urgent appeal for 4.8 million dollars (£3 million) to help people directly affected by the typhoon.

After slamming into Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley, Bopha roared quickly across the southern Mindanao and central regions, knocking out power in two entire provinces, triggering landslides and leaving houses and plantations damaged. More than 170,000 fled to evacuation centres. On Thursday, the typhoon was over the South China Sea west of Palawan province. It was blowing north-west and could be headed to Vietnam or southern China, according to government forecasters.

A delegate from the typhoon-hit Philippines demanded that ministers at the United Nations climate talks put aside their political differences and take bold steps to combat global warming. The emotional appeal by Naderev Sano sparked a rousing ovation from fellow delegates at the conference in the Qatari capital.

It comes as activists and other ministers fear that nothing significant will come out of the talks, which end on Friday in Doha. Rich and poor countries are feuding over financing to help the poorest cope with climate change and commitments from rich countries to tackle emissions in the next few years. Mr Sano said countries are hiding behind their own national interest while his country "was suffering" from Typhoon Bopha, which has killed more than 350 people and left nearly 400 missing.

Press Association

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Also in this section