81 dead as Pablo rips through Mindanao

Posted at 12/04/12 9:47 PM

MANILA, Philippines (5th UPDATE) - At least 81 people have died in Mindanao from the onslaught of Typhoon Pablo (international name Bopha), authorities said Tuesday.

In New Bataan town in Compostela Valley, 43 people died when flash floods swept away an Army patrol base, a landslide hit a community, and trees fell on people at the height of the typhoon.

"Nakita ko mismo ang nakahilerang mga patay... 43 ang nandito ngayon," ABS-CBN News Southern Mindanao reporter Vina Araneta told ANC by telephone.

On the way to the disaster site, Araneta also met a man who said his 2-year-old child died because of the typhoon.

"Kung isasama natin yung namatay na 2-anyos, bale 44 na ang kumpirmadong patay sa new bataan, Compostela Valley pa lamang," she said. "Iyung iba rito ay namatay matapos mabagsakan ng puno ng niyog sa lakas ng hangin. Iyung iba naman nalunod dahil sa taas ng baha at putik."

Lt. Col. Lyndon Paniza, spokesman of the Army's 10th Infantry Division, confirmed the deaths.

He said 23 others were injured while 6 soldiers remain missing.

Paniza said he has no confirmed information yet on the number of missing civilians in the Compostela Valley tragedy.

Compostela Valley Governor Arturo Uy said local officials told him earlier in the day that 34 people were killed in New Bataan.

"It's possible they have found more bodies," Uy told ANC.

"Ang unang balita, may biglang isang malaking bugso ng tubig galing sa bundok na di nila inasahan," he said.

"Nag-request na po ako ng chopper sa Army. Nanawagan rin ako na whatever assistance maibigay -- rescue equipment," he added.

Benito Ramos, executive director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), told ANC he has no information yet on the Compostela Valley tragedy.

He said they are still verifying the reports.

The typhoon has also killed at least 29 people in Davao Oriental province, police said Tuesday.

Twenty-three people died in Cateel town alone because of a flash flood caused by a storm surge, provincial police director Supt. Romil Mitra said.

He said 95 others were injured.

Initial reports said an evacuation center collapsed in the town.

Four fishermen were also reported missing, said Freddie Bendulo, planning and development officer of Davao Oriental.

Three were killed in Caraga, and 3 died in Banganga, Tarragona, and Manay, according to Mitra.

Deaths in Surigao del Sur, Agusan del Sur

Three people also died in Surigao del Sur, according to police chief Supt. Ranier Perlas.

One of the fatalities, 68-year-old Rosita Amundio, died when a coconut tree fell on her house.

Two were killed in Lingig, near Surigao del Sur's boundary with Davao Oriental.

Five people also died in Trento town in Agusan del Sur, according to radio dzMM's Noel Alamar.

"I was able to penetrate Bislig City, Lingig in Surigao Sur. Site of destruction. People need help here," Alamar said on Twitter Tuesday night.

More than 53,000 in emergency shelters

As night fell and the typhoon continued its onslaught  in Mindanao, fears rose that the toll could rise sharply as the strongest storm to hit the country this year brought scenes of devastation.

On Tuesday, Typhoon Pablo brought driving rain and packed gusts of up to 210 kilometers an hour, toppling trees and power lines, causing flashfloods and forcing more than 50,000 to seek refuge in emergency shelters.

The cyclone, which had weakened after making landfall, headed for the Sulu Sea in the late afternoon, changing course westward, state weather bureau PAGASA said.

Winds blew roofs off some buildings and residents of coastal and low-lying communities in Mindanao moved into shelters as floods hit some areas.

Television footage also showed logs being swept down Mindanao's Sumilao river, and utility workers cutting up fallen trees that were blocking highways.

More than 53,000 people had moved into nearly 1,000 government shelters by early Tuesday, the NDRRMC said.

Television footage showed large numbers of people lying on mats or cardboard sheets on the concrete floors of gyms.

People living in the path of the storm did what they could to protect their homes and possessions.

"We have taken our pigs and chickens inside our house because their shed might be destroyed," 46-year-old shopkeeper Marianita Villamor from the southern farming town of San Fermin said.

In Cagayan de Oro city, where giant waves crashed down on the shoreline, Mayor Vicente Emano told ABS-CBN News that police rounded up all residents of low-lying areas and moved them to government shelters.

In Tagum city, hotel waiter Edgie Atilano, 23, said he and his family hunkered down in their home as Pablo bore down.

"At 3:00 am, we were woken by strong rain and howling winds. Trees and branches started snapping off near the house," he said. "This is my first time to experience a strong typhoon. It was a bit scary."

Typhoon heads for Palawan

By early evening the weakened typhoon was streaking across the Sulu Sea, having changed course westward in the afternoon after briefly threatening the central tourist islands of Bohol, Cebu and Negros, the state weather service said.

It was heading toward the north tip of the western island of Palawan and the South China Sea beyond.

A total of 146 flights to and from Mindanao and the central islands had been grounded since Monday night and more than 3,000 ferry passengers were stranded as vessels were ordered to stay in port, according to a civil defence update.

Large parts of Mindanao, which is not normally hit by typhoons, were still without electricity on Tuesday night, it added.

Typhoon Bopha comes after tropical storm Sendong (Washi) hit Mindanao in December last year, killing more than 1,200 and leaving hundreds of thousands homeless. - with reports from Vina Araneta and Paul Palacio, ABS-CBN News Southern Mindanao; Jeff Canoy, ABS-CBN News; Noel Alamar, dzMM; ANC; Agence France-Presse