‘Pablo:’ At least 7 dead, 24 missing

(2nd UPDATE) At least 20 are reported missing in New Bataan, Compostela Valley, according to the military

TERRIFYING STORM. Residents flee their homes due to Typhoon Pablo. Photo by Jef Maitem

MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – Typhoon “Pablo” (international name: Bopha) killed at least 7 people on Tuesday, December 4, as the strongest storm to hit the country this year forced more than 50,000 to seek refuge in emergency shelters, officials said.

Six people were killed, including an elderly woman who was crushed to death when a tree fell on her house, the Agence France-Presse (AFP) quoted rescue officials as saying Tuesday afternoon. The AFP said the officials did not identify the other 5 or say how they had died.

It’s not clear if the 6 already include the 3 members of a family who died in Compostela town, Compostela Valley.

At around 6 pm Tuesday, the local Army told reporters that a soldier died in a flashflood in New Bataan town, Compostela Valley. At least 20 people were also reported missing in the town.

Four fishermen were also reported missing off Mindanao’s east coast, said Freddie Bendulo, planning and development officer of Davao Oriental province.

Capt Severino David of the Army’s Eastern Mindanao Command disaster response task group, said rescue teams were having difficulty reaching New Bataan, Compostela Valley, as many roads remain closed due to landslides caused by heavy rains.

He said a flashflood hit the area washing out homes and a military
patrol base. A first lieutenant was reported injured while a sergeant
was reported killed.

David could not ascertain the time the flashflood took place but said
it happened sometime between 4 a.m. and 10 a.m. at the height of
Pablo’s onslaught in the area.

While it has slightly weakened, Pablo has forced over 53,000 people out of their homes.By early afternoon, the typhoon had slowed and weakened somewhat with top gusts of 195 kilometers an hour, the state weather service said.

A total of 145 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.

Moving to Visayas

Civil defense chief Benito Ramos said the storm had altered course and was expected to hit the central islands of Bohol, Negros and the popular tourist resort island of Cebu later on Tuesday.

Hundreds of people are killed each year by the 20 or so tropical cyclones that hit the Philippines, but Ramos said the low casualties so far from Bopha were down to government efforts to move people to safety.

“So far, casualties have been minimal. We attribute this to the cooperation of our people and the efforts of local officials,” he told reporters.

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

Evacuation centers

In its latest update issued at 12 nn, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said 53,441 persons have flocked to 94 evacuation centers in the Visayas and Mindanao.

Including those who did not evacuate, the affected Filipinos comprised 57, 501 and came from Regions VIII, X, XVI, and Caraga.

Most evacuees came in Surigao del Sur, which was initially expected to be the site of Pablo’s landfall early Tuesday morning. The NDRRMC said 33,521 persons have relocated to the province’s 35 evacuation centers.

Benito Ramos identified two of the dead as Merlinda Balante, a 60-year-old woman from Manay, Davao Oriental, and Jigger Gumunit, 30, from Panaon, Misamis Oriental.

The national government earlier aimed for zero casualties due to Pablo, especially after an almost week-long preparation for the typhoon that has caught wide international attention. President Benigno Aquino III himself on Monday, December 3, led the call to take the typhoon seriously. “This typhoon is no joke,” Aquino said. (Watch more in the video below.)

Despite the low number of casualties, however, Pablo has inflicted damage on roads and infrastructure.

Compostela Valley’s provincial capital in Nabunturan, for example, was built only a few years ago, but is now severely damaged. The typhoon broke its roof and glass windows, and flooded the building up to the 3rd floor.

In Mawab town, Pablo damaged a main road, stranding passengers. It submerged many houses in the town in 3-foot flood waters, and also damaged banana plantations. – Rappler.com, with reports from Agence France-Presse and Karlos Manlupig in Compostela Valley

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