NDRRMC: 'Pablo' death toll nears 300

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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

MANILA (3rd Update, 6:55 p.m.) -- Typhoon "Pablo" (international name: Bopha) has killed nearly 300 people and left dozens more missing, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said Wednesday afternoon.

In its official and latest data, the agency confirmed that 274 people were reported dead while 339 others were injured. Of the total number of fatalities, only 18 have been identified.

About 82 of the fatalities were from Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley, where a mudslide was reported on Tuesday in New Bataan town.

The 33 victims in the said town, who died due to drowning, remain unidentified.

Benito Ramos, NDRRMC executive director, reacted to the varying reports regarding the number of casualties that have been surfacing since Tuesday, particularly to those reports on soldiers allegedly killed in the wake of the typhoon.

"Let us be very careful in the release of information... There should be a process of confirming the report. If it is raw, don't place it on the newspaper," said Ramos, adding that the release of wrong information will be unfair to the families of the supposed victims.

"If it happens that one of the missing soldiers is your husband, I don't think you [will be] happy about it," he added.

Ramos said as of Wednesday, only one soldier was confirmed dead identified as Staff Sergeant Maximo Olivares, who died due to drowning in New Bataan town, Compostela Valley.

The NDRRMC chief added that no assessment of Pablo's damages has been done yet since the typhoon is still devastating some areas in the country.

As of 2 p.m. Wednesday, the eye of "Pablo" was located 90 kilometers northwest of Roxas, Northern Palawan, according to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa).

Pagasa said in its latest bulletin that Pablo slowed down and weakened slightly while moving away from the country.

Northern Palawan, including the Calamian Group of Islands remained under signal number 3, while the rest of Palawan was placed under signal number 2. Signal number 1 was hoisted over the provinces of Oriental Mindoro, Occidental Mindoro and Lubang Island.

Pagasa said Typhoon Pablo is now packing maximum winds of 120 kilometers per hour (kph), as compared to the 130 kph recorded at 9 a.m. Wednesday. Its gustiness is now up to 150 kph from 160 kph. The typhoon’s diameter was also reduced to 400 kilometers from 500 km Wednesday morning.

Weather forecasters said Pablo may exit the Philippine area of responsibility Thursday or Friday.

The NDRRMC said "Pablo" has affected 44,954 families or about 179,104 persons in five regions in Visayas and Mindanao.

At least 169,907 are currently inside evacuation centers as of Wednesday noon.

The typhoon has destroyed five bridges, nine roads, and 2,776 houses.

A total of 5,004 passengers, 562 rolling cargoes, 90 vessels, and 22 motor bancas remain stranded in ports all over the country, according to the NDRRMC.

In northern Palawan, at least 77 families or 385 persons have been evacuated as heavy rains and strong winds rains have been experienced since 10 a.m., said Ramos, who cited a report from the Office of Civil Defense in the Mimaropa region.

He added that more than 1,000 passengers were stranded in six ports in the region.

Ramos, meantime, noted that there has been an "improvement" in the government preparations and in the response of the citizens during the onslaught of Typhoon "Pablo." He said the number of casualties should have been tripled without the improved efforts.

Pablo was initially considered to be stronger than last year's Typhoon "Sendong," which devastated the cities of Cagayan De Oro and Illigan.

"If you say that Sendong is stronger than Pablo, you may have a point insofar as [the number of] casualties is concerned," Ramos said.

Typhoon Sendong, which also entered the country in December, affected a total of 131,618 families or 698,882 persons and left 1,268 fatalities and 6,071 injured people. (Emmanuel Louis Bacani/Sunnex)

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