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Typhoon Pablo rips through Philippines

Last updated on: December 6, 2012 15:39 IST

Typhoon Pablo rips through Philippines

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Nearly 200,000 people have been rendered homeless and 475 confirmed dead after the Philippines' worst typhoon this year, officials said on Wednesday, as the government appealed for international help.

Typhoon Bopha ploughed across Mindanao Island on Tuesday, flattening whole towns in its path as hurricane-force winds brought torrential rain that triggered a deadly combination of floods and landslides.

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Image: Rescuers evacuate a pregnant woman with her child after they survived flooding in New Bataan town in Compostela Valley in southern Philippines December 6, 2012. Rescuers found the six-months pregnant women from the other side of a river with her one-year-old son after escaping floods that swamped their house after Typhoon Bopha hit land on Tuesday in Compostela Valley
Photographs: Erik De Castro/Reuters

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The typhoon brought gusts of up to 210 kmph and heavy rain. Communications and power supplies have been cut across vast areas of the island. 

The typhoon grounded over 150 flights and over 4,000 of ferry passengers are still stranded at ports.

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Image: A typhoon victim clings on a rope while being evacuated in New Bataan town in Compostela Valley in southern Philippines December 6
Photographs: Erik De Castro/Reuters

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The army said it was looking for at least 377 missing people while seeking help for more than 179,000 others who sheltered in schools, gyms and other buildings after losing everything.

Officials said many victims were poor migrants who flocked to landslide-prone sites like New Bataan and the nearby town of Monkayo to farm the lower slopes of mountains or work at unregulated mines in the gold rush area.

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Image: Rescuers evacuate a child who survived flooding with her pregnant mother as they cross a river in New Bataan town, Compostela Valley, southern Philippines December 6, 2012
Photographs: Erik De Castro/Reuters

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Of the dead, 258 were found on the east coast of Mindanao while 191 were recovered in and around New Bataan and Monkayo, said Major-General Ariel Bernardo, head of an army division involved in the search.

The civil defence office in Manila said 17 people were killed elsewhere in Mindanao along with nine in the central Visayan Islands.

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Image: A vendor sits next to a Coca Cola refrigerator amidst destroyed food stalls after Typhoon Bopha hit Compostela Valley, southern Philippines December 5, 2012
Photographs: Erik De Castro/Reuters

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Most of the typhoon's victims appeared to have drowned or been hit by falling trees or flying debris, officials said.

"There is debris in the road, so our soldiers are moving by foot," military spokesman Col Lyndon Paniza said. "They are crossing rivers and landslides. I don't want to speculate, but we don't know what they will find when they reach those cut off areas."

Some soldiers disappeared while on search-and-rescue operations.

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Image: Residents clean their sofa outside their destroyed house after Typhoon Bopha hit Compostela Valley, southern Philippines
Photographs: Erik De Castro/Reuters

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Local television crews broadcast grisly footage of mud-covered bodies being loaded into trucks in villages that appeared flattened by the storm.

In some areas, not a single structure could be seen standing.

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Image: Residents walk among the debris littered on a road after flashfloods brought by Typhoon Bopha in Compostela Valley in southern Philippines
Photographs: Erik De Castro/Reuters

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Unlike the previous day's turbulent weather, the sun was shining brightly Wednesday, prompting residents to lay their soaked clothes, books and other belongings out on roadsides to dry and revealing the extent of the damage to farmland.

Thousands of banana trees in one Compostela Valley plantation were toppled by the wind, the young bananas still wrapped in blue plastic covers.

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Image: Villagers gather on a destroyed highway littered with rocks and debris after flashfloods brought by Typhoon Bopha in Compostela Valley in southern Philippines
Photographs: Erik De Castro/Reuters

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After slamming into Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley, Bopha roared quickly across the southern Mindanao and central regions, knocking out power in two entire provinces, triggering landslides and leaving houses and plantations damaged.

More than 170,000 fled to evacuation centres.

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Image: Villagers wait to be evacuated after their homes were swept away by flash floods brought by typhoon Bopha in Compostela Valley, southern Philippines
Photographs: Erik De Castro/Reuters

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The Associated Press reported that a government-issued geological hazard map had identified the extremely precarious location of the farming community in the southern Philippines as "highly susceptible to flooding and landslides."

Yet, like in many other places on resource-rich Mindanao Island and elsewhere in this disaster-prone Southeast Asian nation, such warnings went unheeded -- until a powerful typhoon struck this week, washing away emergency shelters, a military camp and entire families.

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Image: A man walks in an area swamped with debris and mud brought by Typhoon Bopha in New Bataan town in Compostela Valley in southern Philippines December 6
Photographs: Erik De Castro/Reuters

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The Philippines is hit by as many as 20 powerful tropical storms each year, but this one struck remote communities south of the usual typhoon path.

Last December, Tropical Storm Washi -- another out-of-season storm that hit south of the usual Philippine typhoon belt -- killed more than 1,200 people and left hundreds of thousands homeless.

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Image: A typhoon victim clings on a rope while being evacuated in New Bataan town in Compostela Valley in southern Philippines December 6
Photographs: Erik De Castro/Reuters

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