(Photo: REUTERS/Erik De Castro)
At least 283 people have lost their lives after a massive typhoon hit southern Philippines on Tuesday, generating 75 mph winds and gusts of up to 93 mph.
Typhoon Bopha continued to wreak havoc on beach resorts and dive spots on Palawan Island on Wednesday, although Reuters reported it was weakening as it moved to the west. The southern island of Mindanao sustained the heaviest damage, triggering landslides and flooding in mining towns, farms and along the coastal region.
"Entire families were washed away," Interior Minister Manuel Roxas said, sharing that another 300 people were missing. Search and rescue efforts have been hampered by destroyed roads and collapsed bridges.
Power has been cut off and communications were down in many areas, with thousands of people having to seek refuge in shelters and appeal for food, water and clothing. A number of domestic flights were also suspended on Wednesday as the recovery process began.
Describing the devastation, Compostela Valley Gov. Arthur Uy said that waves of water and mud came crashing down the mountains, sweeping through town halls, schools and clinics where residents were seeking shelter.
The Associated Press noted that Bopha affected over 45,000 people in the farming town, which was turned into a wasteland of collapsed houses and fallen coconut and banana trees. Victims were laid out on the ground as people searched for missing relatives, many of whom were badly mangled by the flood waters that dragged them over rocks.
"The waters came so suddenly and unexpectedly, and the winds were so fierce," Uy told Reuters, noting that the death toll in his province alone had reached 160 people.
The governor explained that agriculture and infrastructure damage across the province was extensive.
"We were very scared," added corn farmer Jerry Pampusa. "We felt we were on an island because there was water everywhere."
"We found some of the bodies about 6 miles away," said survivor Francisco Alduiso. "The only building left standing in his village was the school.
The Philippines experiences around 20 typhoons of various severity each year. Last year, Typhoon Washi killed 1,500 people in the province of Mindanao.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, both assisting in relief efforts, issued an appeal for $4.8 million to help address the needs of those affected by the typhoon.