Typhoon Bapho pounds Mindanao

PHILIPPINES - Blown in the wind.

Deaths in flash floods.

That's what happened in areas in Mindanao raked by powerful Typhoon "Pablo" before dawn Tuesday.

Pablo moved swiftly on its predicted path, sending roofs flying off houses, hectares of coconut trees tumbling, rivers bursting their banks, canceling flights and ferry services, church bells ringing and sirens wailing in a large part of Mindanao where the Category 5 storm passed.

Inquirer bureaus in Mindanao and Cebu, in reports attributed to local officials, and civil defence authorities put the initial death toll-mainly in flash floods-at 42 and another 24 unaccounted for. Most of the deaths were in New Bataan in Compostela Valley.

In Manila, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said two Army platoons with possibly 66 soldiers were unaccounted for.

Benito Ramos, NDRRMC executive director, said each platoon had 33 soldiers.

He said the command post of Charlie Company of the 66th Infantry Battalion at Barangay (village) Andap in New Bataan was reportedly washed away in a flash flood.

Contact with the platoons had not been established as of 4 p.m.

But Gen. Ariel Bernardo, commander of the 10th Infantry Division, told the Inquirer by phone that reports reaching him indicated only six soldiers were missing from the two platoons.

'Totally unexpected'

Gov. Arturo Uy of Compostela Valley confirmed in a GMA News TV interview that 33 people drowned in New Bataan town.

Uy said the bodies were retrieved at 5:30 p.m.

"It was totally unexpected," Uy said.

Flooding reached the barangay hall and the health centre that were supposed to be on high ground.

"We never expected the waters to be that strong, the rescue team was only able to enter the area at 4:30 p.m.," he said.

In the neighbouring Compostela town, Provincial Board Member Neri Barte reported a woman and her two children were killed in a landslide.

Davao Oriental Gov. Corazon Malanyaon said four people were confirmed dead while 24 others were feared to have also been killed when Pablo hit the province at dawn on Tuesday.

"Of the 29, four have been confirmed. The rest, we still have to verify with reports coming from the ground," Malanyaon told the Inquirer by phone.

The reports, the governor said, came from social welfare offices and police officers in Boston, Manay, Baganga, Caraga and Cateel towns.

"This is very depressing," Malanyaon said.

She added that it was impossible for them to check on the reports yesterday because the roads were impassable due to landslides and fallen trees along the road leading to the towns.

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