MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE) – The death toll from typhoon “Pablo” has climbed to 274, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Center (NDRRMC) said on Wednesday.
NDRRMC executive director Benito Ramos said most of the deaths were caused by landslides and flashfloods, particularly in Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental, where the typhoon made landfall Tuesday morning.
Ramos said 339 people were reported injured while 279 are still missing.
A separate report from Interior and Local Secretary Mar Roxas, meanwhile, said 319 people are reported missing in New Bataan town, Compostela Valley alone.
Lt. Col. Lyndon Paniza, spokesman of the Armed Forces of the Philippines 10th Infantry Division, said among the casualties in New Bataan were 4 soldiers of the 66th Infantry Division.
Twenty-three soldiers were hurt while 7 remain missing.
Paniza said the soldiers were helping residents cross a river when they were swept away by flashfloods.
“Nandoon sila sa area para mag-conduct ng rescue operation. ‘Yung kanilang company headquarters ay nasa lugar na ‘yun,” he told dzMM.
Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman and other local officials described scenes of utter devastation with houses and other structures in some towns and villages ripped apart by Pablo, considered 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.
"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."
Pablo (international name Bopha) slammed into Mindanao Tuesday morning, uprooting trees and blowing away homes with 210 kilometer per hour gusts.
But the typhoon weakened as it hit land, and is now packing winds of 120 kph and gusts of up to 150 kph.
PAGASA said the typhoon is expected to leave the Philippine Area of Responsibility Thursday night or early Friday.
It was last spotted 110 kilometers northwest of Roxas, Palawan.
Signal 3 is still up in northern Palawan and the Calamian group of islands. The rest of Palawan is under signal 2.
Signal 1 is hoisted over Occidental Mindoro.
Pablo is the 16th storm to hit the country this year. In December last year, Mindanao was also ravaged by tropical storm “Sendong”, which killed more than 1,200 people and left hundreds of thousands homeless.-- With Agence France-Presse