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'Pablo' death toll balloons to 238

MANILA, Philippines - The death toll from Typhoon "Pablo" (international name Bopha) ballooned to at least 238 people as rescue and retrieval operations intensified on Wednesday and local officials feared many more bodies could be found as rescuers reach hard-hit areas that had been isolated by landslides, floods and downed communications.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines' Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom), whose troops were engaged in ongoing disaster, relief and retrieval  operations in areas ravaged by Pablo, reported that at least 143 people died from flash floods and landslides in the farming and mining provinces of Compostela Valley, specifically in the towns of Monkayo, New Bataan, Compostela, Montevista, Nabunturan and Pantukan.

“In the whole province of Compostela Valley the number of deaths has risen to 143. In New Bataan alone, 67 civilians and three of our soldiers died from flash flood,” said Eastmincom spokesperson Lt. Col. Lyndon Paniza.

Paniza added that 154 were also injured while 58 persons were missing including eight soldiers.

The Provincial Disaster Risk Management Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC) of Davao Oriental, on the other hand, reported 82 fatalities either from flash floods, landslides or by fallen trees after the typhoon made landfall in the province before dawn Tuesday.

The PDRRMC said that the fatalities were recorded from the towns of Tarragona (1), Manay (1), Caraga (3), Banganga (31), Cateel (30) and Boston (16). It also reported that 21 more people were missing and 148 were injured in the province.

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The other fatalities came from Caraga region with six dead, Northern Samar with one, two in Bukidnon, one more in Misamis Oriental, two in Misamis Occidental and one more in Siquijor.

Cross-checking death count

Undersecretary Benito Ramos, executive director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), meanwhile, announced that the agency has confirmed only 95 deaths from the typhoon's onslaught as of 1 p.m.

“We could not just confirm the number of fatalities from Comval (Compostela Valley) and Davao Oriental because we are still validating and cross-checking all field reports that are coming in,” Ramos said.

However, Ramos said that he expects the official number of fatalities to increase as there were many typhoon-ravaged areas that have yet to be reached by soldiers and policemen involved in the search, rescue and retrieval operations.

Aside from the rising number of fatalities, Ramos said that he also expects a massive damage in agriculture and infrastructure in the two provinces. There were initial reports that 75 per cent of the houses as well as private and government infrastructures along Pablo’s path were either totally or partially destroyed.

Ramos said that as of Wednesday afternoon, the weather has largely improved in Mindanao but the people in the typhoon-ravaged communities are still reeling from the massive destruction left by Pablo.

“It’s already sunny out there but the people there are asking for food, clothing and shelter. These are three basic services they need. Lahat sila ngayon ay mangiyak-ngiyak at humingi ng ayuda at tulong. Kaawa-awa ang kanilang kalagayan ngayon,” Ramos said.

Meanwhile, the national government, through the Department of Health (DOH), is sending body bags to the worst-hit areas while the recovered bodies, including children, are being processed for identification.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development has been attending to the basic needs of the displaced civilians who lost their houses and are staying in more than 80 evacuation centers. With Dennis Carcamo, philstar.com

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