NEW BATAAN, Philippines (AP) — A powerful typhoon that washed away emergency shelters, a military camp and possibly entire families in the southern Philippines has killed almost 350 people with nearly 400 missing, authorites said Thursday.
More bodies were retrieved from hardest-hit Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental provinces and six others impacted by Tuesday's storm, the Office of Civil Defense reported.
At least 200 of the victims died in Compostela Valley alone, including 78 villagers and soldiers who perished in a flash flood that swamped two emergency shelters and a military camp.
"Entire families may have been washed away," said Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, who visited New Bataan on Wednesday. The farming town of 45,000 people was a muddy wasteland of collapsed houses and coconut and banana trees felled by ferocious winds.
Bodies of victims were laid on the ground for viewing by people searching for missing relatives. Some were badly mangled after being dragged by raging floodwaters over rocks and other debris. A man sprayed insecticide on the remains to keep away swarms of flies.
A father wept when he found the body of his child after lifting a plastic cover. A mother, meanwhile, went away in tears, unable to find her missing children. "I have three children," she said repeatedly, flashing three fingers before a TV cameraman.
Two men carried the mud-caked body of an unidentified girl that was covered with coconut leaves on a makeshift stretcher made from a blanket and wooden poles.
Dionisia Requinto, 43, felt lucky to have survived with her husband and their eight children after swirling flood waters surrounded their home. She said they escaped and made their way up a hill to safety, bracing themselves against boulders and fallen trees as they climbed.
"The water rose so fast," she told The Associated Press. "It was horrible. I thought it was going to be our end."
In nearby Davao Oriental, the coastal province first struck by Typhoon Bopha as it blew from the Pacific Ocean, at least 115 people perished, mostly in three towns so battered that it was hard to find any buildings with roofs remaining, provincial officer Freddie Bendulo and other officials said.
"We had a problem where to take the evacuees. All the evacuation centers have lost their roofs," Davao Oriental Gov. Corazon Malanyaon said.