The death toll from typhoon Bopha has climbed to over 300 in a span of a few days since Tuesday when sustained winds of 120 kph and gusts up to 150 kph ravaged the southern Philippines, triggering flash floods and landslides feared to have washed away entire families.
Hardest hit were Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental in the southern island of Mindanao, where Bopha made landfall early in the week.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction & Management Council (NDRRMC) said that as of 6 am, Thursday, there were 325 deaths with only 29 people identified and 378 still missing.
At least 200 victims died in Compostela valley alone on Tuesday while fatalities reached 115 in nearby Davao Oriental, AP reports.
Hundreds of thousands of families were affected by the typhoon while the total number of missing was “rising rapidly from single to triple digits” as rescuers struggle to reach more remote areas where many were still reported to be under mud-covered houses and structures.
Many regions are without power and communications are down. Authorities are having a hard time providing shelter to displaced families because many evacuation centers were damaged.
Interior Secretary Mar Roxas flew to the area to inspect the devastation and saw thousands of homes ripped apart and corpses lying on the ground.
“According to survivors, there is a small lake on the mountain that gave way so the waters flowed down, not just along the rivers… but all across, like a waterfall, bringing a slurry that covered the whole town,” Mr. Roxas told AFP.
Mud-stained bodies were laid on the ground for people searching for their missing relatives to try to identify. A mother wept when she was unable to find her missing children. “I have three children,” she said repeatedly, flashing three fingers.
Another survivor said his mother and brother disappeared in a flash flood. “I no longer have a family,” he said.
The typhoon was the strongest to enter the country this year, ravaging the seldom-hit region. Losses were estimated at 178.3 million pesos worth of agriculture, infrastructure and private properties. The United Nations has, though, lauded improved early warning systems that saved many lives.
As of Thursday morning, Bopha has moved out to the South China Sea and may be headed to Vietnam or southern China, according to government forecasts.