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Typhoon death toll nears 300

Bodies of flash flood victims lie on the ground as villagers look for their missing relatives after Typhoon Bopha hit New Bataan in Compostela province, southern Philippines December 5, 2012.

NEW BATAAN — Blocked roads and severed communications in the southern Philippines frustrated rescuers today as teams searched for hundreds of people missing after the strongest typhoon this year killed at least 283 people.

Typhoon Bopha, with central winds of 120 kph and gusts of up to 150 kph, battered beach resorts and dive spots on Palawan island today but it was weakening as it moved west.

Hardest hit was the southern island of Mindanao, where Bopha made landfall yesterday. It triggered landslides and floods along the coast and in farming and mining towns inland.

Interior Minister Manuel Roxas said 300 people were missing.

“Entire families were washed away,” Roxas, who inspected the disaster zone, told reporters.

Most affected areas were cut off by destroyed roads and collapsed bridges and army search-and-rescue teams were being flown in by helicopter.

Power was cut and communications were down.

According to tallies provided by the military and disaster agency officials, 283 people were killed.

Thousands of people were in shelters and officials appealed for food, water and clothing. Dozens of domestic flights were suspended.

The governor of the worst-hit province, Compostela Valley, in Mindanao said waves of water and mud came crashing down mountains and swept through schools, town halls and clinics where huddled residents had sought shelter.

The death toll in the province stood at 160. In nearby Davao Oriental province, where Bopha made landfall, 110 people were killed.

“The waters came so suddenly and unexpectedly, and the winds were so fierce,” the Compostela Valley governor, Arthur Uy, told Reuters by telephone.

He said irrigation reservoirs on top of mountains had given way sending large volumes of water down to the valleys. Torrential rain often triggers landslides down slopes stripped of their forest cover.

Damage to agriculture and infrastructure in the province was extensive, Uy said. (Reuters)

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