Philippines biggest typhoon kills at least 82, many buried under mud

MANILA, Dec 5 (Reuters) - The Philippines' strongest typhoon

this year was headed towards tourist destinations on Wednesday

after hitting a southern island, destroying homes, causing

landslides and killing at least 82 people, but many more are

reported dead and missing.

Typhoon Bopha, with central winds of 120 kph (75 mph) and

gusts of up to 160 kph (93 mph), was expected to hit beach

resorts and dive spots in northern Palawan, the weather bureau

said on Wednesday.

Interior Minister Manuel Roxas confirmed 82 people had died

and scores were missing after Bopha made landfall on Tuesday.

But the toll is likely to be closer to 100 with police and

media reports of other deaths still to be confirmed.

About 20 typhoons hit the Philippines annually, often

causing death and destruction. Typhoon Washi killed 1,500 people

in 2011.

More than half those confirmed killed, many buried under mud

and collapsed houses, were from an area near an army outpost in

Compostela Valley province on southern Mindanao.

"We have already accounted 43 bodies and we're still looking

for more, including nine soldiers," said Major-General Ariel

Bernardo, an army division commander.

BURIED UNDER MUD

Bernardo said two dozen people had been pulled from under

layers of mud and were being treated in local hospitals. Video

showed dozens of bloodied survivors, their faces covered with

thick cake of mud, at a shelter in the province.

Mudslides and massive flooding caused by swollen rivers

inundated most farms in Compostela Valley.

"In the town of Nabunturan, our farms were totally wiped

out, there was flooding in every barangay (village)," police

Major Hector Grijaldo. "All banana plantations were totally

wiped out. What we see standing are coconut trees, all others

were either uprooted or felled."

Coastal areas in nearby Davao Oriental province also bore

the brunt of Bopha's fierce winds and rain.

Rommil Mitra, provincial police chief, said 52 people were

reported killed in Boston and Cateel towns, most of them crushed

by fallen tress, collapsed homes and flying debris.

"The winds were really very strong," Mitra said. "I was told

the force of the wind could even lift an army truck loaded with

troops from the ground."

Most of the affected areas remained isolated due to power

outages, lack of communications and destroyed roads and bridges.

Helicopters were ferrying troops in search and rescue

operations.

Tens of thousands of people remained in temporary shelter

areas as local officials appealed for food, water and warm

clothes for displaced families. Schools remained closed and

dozens of domestic flights were suspended on Wednesday.

(Reporting By Manuel Mogato and Rosemarie Francisco; Editing by

Michael Perry)

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