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‘Pablo’ fatalities breach 100-mark

Manila, Philippines – The death toll from Typhoon Pablo climbed to more than 100 people Wednesday, while scores of others remain missing in the worst-hit areas of the southern Philippines.

At least 43 people died when torrents of water rampaged down a mountain in New Bataan town in Compostela Valley province and engulfed a school and village hall where people were taking shelter from the storm. Nine soldiers and an unspecified number of villages were missing, army Maj. Gen. Ariel Bernardo told The Associated Press.

Six villagers drowned in floods in Montevista town, Compostela Valley provincial spokeswoman Fe Maestre said.

In nearby Davao Oriental province, 51 people died, mostly in floods, while two men perished when fierce wind ripped their boat from its mooring and it sank on central Siquijor island, according to disaster-response officials.

Pablo, one of the strongest typhoons to hit the country this year, struck Davao Oriental at dawn on Tuesday then barreled across southern and central provinces, triggering landslides, flooding and cutting off power in two entire provinces. It was roaring toward western Palawan province on yesterday and was expected to blow out toward the South China Sea the next day.

In hard-hit Compostela Valley province, rain accumulated atop a mountain and flooded down on Andap village in New Bataan town, Gov. Arturo Uy said. A school and village hall where evacuees were staying was swamped by the flash flood and an army truck carrying soldiers and villagers was washed away, according to Uy and army officials.

He said the town’s death toll would rise because several uncounted bodies could not immediately be retrieved from floodwaters strewn with huge logs and debris.

Some 20 typhoons and storms lash the Philippines annually, but they more commonly hit the northern and central provinces of the archipelago. President Aquino had appealed on national television for people to take storm warnings seriously.

About 60,000 people were staying in emergency shelters and more than 100 domestic flights were canceled.

Typhoon Pablo had winds of 175 kilometers per hour (109 miles per hour) and gusts of up to 210 kph (130 mph) when it made landfall around Davao Oriental province at dawn Tuesday. It knocked out power in two entire provinces, and its ferocious winds ripped roofs from homes and toppled trees.

Winds weakened to 140 kph (87 mph) with gusts up to 170 kph (106 mph) by evening. It had moved out to sea again by Wednesday morning.

Twenty-three people drowned or were pinned by fallen trees or collapsed houses in Davao Oriental province’s coastal town of Cateel, which had the most deaths after New Bataan, Davao Oriental Gov. Corazon Malanyaon told the ABS-CBN TV network, citing police reports.

Some towns in the province were so battered that no roofs remained on buildings, Malanyaon said.

The other deaths included three children who were buried by a wall of mud and boulders that plunged down a mountain in Marapat village, also in Compostela Valley. Their bodies were wrapped in blankets by their grieving relatives and placed on a stage in a basketball court.

In Davao Oriental, a poor agricultural and gold-mining province about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) southeast of Manila, an elderly woman was killed when her house was struck by a falling tree, said Benito Ramos, who heads the government’s disasterresponse agency.

The other victims either drowned or were hit by trees, he said, adding that the death toll was expected to rise. (AP)

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