[PHOTO - YES WE HAVE NO BANANAS TODAY: A mother and her daughter wash their clothes next to flattened banana trees at a plantation in Monte Vista town, Compostela Valley province, on Wednesday after Typhoon “Pablo” ravaged the province. Pablo destroyed 70 to 80 percent of plantations mostly bananas for export, said Gov. Arthur Uy. AFP]

NEW BATAAN, DECEMBER 9, 2012 (INQUIRER) By Dennis Jay Santos Inquirer Mindanao - Juniper Serato scanned the bodies lined up at the public gymnasium in this farming town that bore the brunt of winds gusting up to 160 kilometers per hour when Typhoon “Pablo” made landfall in eastern Mindanao before dawn on Tuesday.

Serato was looking for his family of six, including his parents, who were still missing a day after they experienced the fury of the first typhoon to hit the area in memory.

“I have difficulty recognizing the faces because they’re bloated,” he told this reporter. As he walked carefully he stopped by a familiar face, a friend. “I know him,” he said.

Gov. Arthur Uy of Compostela Valley said raging waters and mud from the mountains swept through school buildings, covered courts, town halls and health centers where residents had taken shelter.

“The waters came so suddenly and unexpectedly, and the winds were so fierce, that compounded the loss of lives and livelihood,” Uy told Reuters in a telephone interview.

He said water catchment basins for farms on top of the mountains gave way due to the torrential rains, sending down heavy volumes of water to the flatlands.

Damage to agriculture and infrastructure in Compostela Valley province could reach at least P4 billion, with the typhoon destroying 70-80 percent of plantations, mostly bananas for export, Uy said.

Around 245 people were still missing in New Bataan alone, Uy said, adding the area was initially cut off by roadblocks. Communications were down and power had yet to be restored in the area.

“The last thing my mother said was ‘I love you,’” said Julius Rebucas, whose mother and brother were caught in flash floods in Compostela Valley. “It’s sad because I no longer have a family.”

As of noon Wednesday, 79 bodies had been recovered in New Bataan, including four soldiers of the 66th Infantry Division, whose encampment set up by two platoons was washed away in flash floods ignited by Pablo as it swept ashore from the Pacific, where it emerged as “Bopha,” the international designation. Another 21 people were killed in Moncayo, also in Compostela Valley.

Official death toll: 274

All told, 216 people died, according to a count as of 4:30 p.m. by Inquirer reporters at the scene and accounts by municipal, civil defense and military officials.

Aside from the fatalities in New Bataan and Moncayo, there were also 110 deaths in Davao Oriental, two in Misamis Oriental, two in Misamis Occidental, one in Bukidnon and one in Cebu.

In Manila, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) put the official death toll at 274 as of 7 p.m. The NDRRMC said another 279 people were missing and 339 injured.

The Philippine Army’s 10th Infantry Division said there were 224 reported dead in Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental as of 4 p.m. Wednesday.

The NDRRMC also said that 36,000 families—around 180,000 people—were in evacuation centers.

President Aquino on Wednesday sent Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas to the disaster zone to check on the extent of damage. He said P8 billion would be available for relief. Malacañang said Mr. Aquino himself was planning to visit the typhoon-hit provinces.

It was the second whammy to hit Mindanao, which Tropical Storm “Sendong” pummeled leaving 1,500 people dead last year.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration on Wednesday lifted storm signals in all but the provinces of Palawan, Oriental and Occidental Mindoro and Antique as the 16th typhoon of the season headed out into the West Philippine Sea.

Pablo weakened after it raked Central Mindanao and provinces in the southern section of the Visayas, sparing from damage beaches and dive resorts in northern Palawan Wednesday.

Col. Leopoldo Galon, spokesperson of the Eastern Mindanao Command, said soldiers from the 66th Infantry Division were in a temporary camp at Andap village, which was hit by flash floods on Tuesday morning. Two platoons, of about 40 soldiers, survived, Galon said.

Maj. Gen. Ariel Bernardo, commander of the 10th Infantry Division, said two dozen people had been pulled out under layers of mud and were being treated in local hospitals. Video showed dozens of bloodied survivors, their faces covered with thick cake of mud, at a shelter in the province.

Monster winds

In Davao Oriental, the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC) recorded as of 3:30 a.m. Wednesday 110 people killed, including 59 in Cateel, and 31 in Baganga, where Pablo made its landfall from the Pacific, 15 in Boston and one each in Tarragona and Manay towns.

Senior Supt. Rommil Mitra, police chief of Davao Oriental, said most of those killed in Cateel and Boston towns were crushed by fallen trees, collapsed homes and flying debris.

“The winds were really very strong,” Mitra said. “I was told the force of the wind could even lift an Army truck loaded with troops from the ground.”

The towns of Baganga, Cateel and Boston have remained inaccessible because the Mandulog Bridge in Caraga town collapsed at the height of the storm.

Cateel wiped out

“There’s still no electricity there. The communication lines are still down,” Galon said.

“There are very few structures left standing in the town of Cateel,” Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman told Agence France-Presse.

“We need to rush to these areas body bags, medicines, dry clothes and most importantly tents, because survivors are living out in the open after the typhoon blew away homes and rooftops,” she said.

“The bodies are left lying on the ground in the open in New Bataan and we don’t want to risk the spread of disease,” Soliman said.

In Misamis Oriental, two men died when a tree fell on their houses in Salay and Lagonglong town, said Maricel Rivera, the provincial information officer.

Rivera also said 3,467 families moved to evacuation centers across the province’s 23 towns and two cities.

In Bukidnon, Valencia City Mayor Leandro Catarata said a child died after a coconut tree fell on him. Catarata also said two bridges were damaged by swollen rivers.

In Misamis Occidental, two persons died, according to Paul de Barras, PDRRMC officer. He said Jigger Ian Gamotin, 31, of Panaon town, and John Sumile Bonasil, 17, of Baliangao town, were hit by falling trees.

Search and rescue

Most of the affected areas remained isolated due to power outages, lack of communications and destroyed roads and bridges. Helicopters were ferrying troops in search and rescue operations.

Thousands of people remained in temporary shelter areas as local officials appealed for food, water and warm clothes for displaced families. Schools remained closed and dozens of domestic flights were suspended Wednesday. With reports from DJ Yap and Nikko Dizon in Manila; Nico Alconaba, Bobby Lagsa, Germelina Lacorte, Ryan D. Rosauro, Inquirer Mindanao; Redempto Anda and Maricar Cinco, Inquirer Southern Luzon; and AFP

Typhoon death toll climbs to over 200 By Frances Mangosing


MANILA, Philippines – The death toll from typhoon “Pablo” (international name Bopha) that battered Visayas and Mindanao climbed to more than 200 people Wednesday and officials feared many more bodies could be found as rescuers reached hard-hit areas that had been isolated by landslides, floods and downed communications, the military said.

Lieutenant Colonel Lyndon Paniza of the Army’s 10th Infantry Division said fatalities from Compostela Valley have gone up to 142, with 69 of which were from Tuesday’s flashflood in New Bataan.

Three of the 69 were Army soldiers.

He added that there were 158 injured from Pablo’s wrath. The number of those missing was unclear. Earlier reports said 258 were still unaccounted for but Paniza corrected the reports and said only 79 were missing, 58 from Compostela and 21 from Davao Oriental.

In Davao Oriental, meanwhile, there were 114 reported deaths and 21 still missing, according to the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council.

Paniza also said heavy rains and strong winds whipped up by Pablo have damaged crops in Davao del Norte.

“Davao del Norte was affected and damage to crops, especially the banana plantations was extensive and rice fields are under water,” he said.

“But as to fatalities we have no report coming from Davao del Norte,” he added.

Paniza also said evacuees from Davao del Norte have returned to their homes.

‘Few structures left standing’

Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman and other officials described scenes of utter devastation with houses and other structures in some towns and villages ripped apart by the most powerful storm to hit the country this year.

“There are very few structures left standing in the town of Cateel,” she told AFP, referring to one badly hit coastal town.

“We need to rush to these areas body bags, medicines, dry clothes and most importantly tents, because survivors are living out in the open after the typhoon blew away homes and rooftops.”

The situation was just as dire in New Bataan town, which the military said saw flash floods and mudslides.

“The bodies are left lying on the ground in the open in New Bataan and we don’t want to risk the spread of disease,” Soliman said.

The New Bataan dead included a soldier taking part in rescue operations, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas said. Six other army men from the same unit were missing and three were injured.

“It is quite sad and tragic. They were actually there to be ready to help our countrymen who may be in trouble,” Roxas said.

The military was scrambling helicopters and heavy equipment Wednesday to the mountain town, where rainwater had gushed down from nearby slopes, creating a deadly swirl of water, logs and rocks that crushed everything in its path.

Logs and boulders blocked the narrow mountain pass leading to the town, said Major General Ariel Bernardo, commander of an army division in the area.

Parts of Mindanao remained without power and telephone services, with food and clean water in limited supply.

Cateel and two other towns on Mindanao’s east coast remained cut off due to a collapsed bridge and fallen trees and debris blocking roads, said Corazon Malanyaon, governor of Davao Oriental province where Bopha made landfall.

She said rescuers were using everything from heavy equipment to their bare hands and chainsaws to clear the roads.

“It’s like we’re running an obstacle course,” Malanyaon said on local radio.

“About 95 percent of the town centre’s structures including hospitals, private homes, private buildings had their roofs blown away,” she said.

Bernardo said about 200 soldiers were dispatched to help them, while emphasising that the military was also “a victim of the storm” after an army patrol base and a rescue truck were washed away in New Bataan.

“In one of our headquarters, no bunkers were left standing and all our communication equipment has been destroyed,” he said.

Bopha struck Mindanao early Tuesday, bringing driving rain and strong winds that forced 87,000 people to seek refuge in emergency shelters, according to an updated civil defence office tally.

It was the 16th storm this year to ravage the Philippines, which is hit with about 20 cyclones annually.

In December last year Mindanao was pummelled by tropical storm Washi, which killed more than 1,200 people and left hundreds of thousands homeless. With a report from Agence France Presse and Associated Press

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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