UK & World News

  • 4 December 2012, 8:51

Philippines Typhoon: Bopha Forces Evacuations

A powerful typhoon has smashed into the southern Philippines, forcing more than 41,000 people to flee their homes to escape the strongest storm to hit the country this year.

Three people have been hit by falling trees, while another person had a heart attack as the typhoon lashed Mindanao island, said civil defence chief Benito Ramos, adding that their condition was not known.

"So far, casualties have been minimal. We attribute this to the co-operation of our people and the efforts of local officials," Mr Ramos told reporters.

The storm weakened slightly after making landfall early on Tuesday and was moving northwest.

Power has been cut off in at least eight municipalities, while parts of Agusan del Sur province are flooded, Mr Ramos said.

Winds have also blown roofs off some buildings on Mindanao.

The commercial centre of Cagayan de Oro, a city of 600,000 people, was hit by flooding as rivers overflowed.

Liza Mazo, regional civil defence official, said power was cut to reduce the risk of fires and electrocutions.

Residents evacuated high-risk coastal villages and along rivers, including in southern provinces that were devastated by a deadly storm a year ago.

Cagayan de Oro mayor Vicente Emano said on ABS-CBN television that police forcibly evacuated residents of low-lying areas after they refused to join thousands of others who had sought refuge at government shelters.

Schools were shut in Mindanao and across large areas of the central Philippines, with some of the schoolrooms serving as evacuation centres or to store relief supplies.

In the mountainous Compostela Valley, authorities halted mining operations and ordered villagers to evacuate to prevent a repeat of deadly losses from landslides and the collapse of mine tunnels seen in recent storms.

Bopha, which has a 373-mile (600-km) wide rain band, was expected to barrel across southern and central provinces before blowing out into the South China Sea on Thursday, forecasters said.

The Philippines is battered by about 20 typhoons a year, with 1,500 deaths recorded last year from cyclones that affected nearly a tenth of the total population by government count.