NEW BATAAN: The death toll from a typhoon that ravaged the Philippines jumped to 238 Wednesday with hundreds missing, as rescuers battled to reach areas cut off by floods and mudslides, officials said.
Typhoon Bopha slammed into the southern island of Mindanao Tuesday, toppling trees and blowing away homes with 210-kilometre (130-mile) per hour gusts before easing overnight as it headed towards the South China Sea.
A total of 142 people died and 241 others were missing in the mountainous Mindanao town of New Bataan, Lieutenant-Colonel Lyndon Paniza told.
Eighty-one other people were killed in the nearby province of Davao Oriental and 15 in other areas, Paniza and the civil defence office said.
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, 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.