'Pablo' now in north Palawan; 22 areas under storm signals

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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

MANILA (2nd Update, 10:07 a.m.) -- Typhoon “Pablo” (international codename: Bopha) has reached northern Palawan in Luzon, hours after it battered Visayas and Mindanao, leaving at least 15 persons “officially” dead, said authorities Wednesday.

In its Twitter account, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) said Pablo was located at 9 a.m. Wednesday 115 kilometers (km) northeast of Puerto Princesa City in Palawan.

The typhoon’s wind strength slightly weakened from 160 kilometers per hour (kph) Tuesday afternoon to 130 kph, while its gustiness also decreased from 195 kph to 160 kph. Its diameter was also reduced from 500 kilometers (km) to 400 km.

Although it further weakened Wednesday, 22 areas in the country remain under public storm warning signals, with Northern Palawan, including the Calamian Group of Islands under signal number 3, said Pagasa.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council’s (NDRRMC) official death toll from Pablo, meanwhile, has climbed to 15 as of Wednesday morning, while more than 120,000 are affected in four regions in Visayas and Mindanao.

In its 6 a.m. update, the NDRRMC said at least 15 people were reported dead, 30 were injured, while 24,380 families or 120,627 persons are affected in Eastern Visayas, Northern Mindanao, Davao Region, and Caraga Region.

NDRRMC Executive Director Benito Ramos said, however, that the death toll could rise to 43 if the number of casualties from unofficial reports recently received by the agency will be added.

Varying numbers of casualties reported by some government officials have surfaced since Tuesday.

Citing a report from the 10th Infantry Division, Philippine Army spokesman Major Harold Cabunoc said 43 were reported dead due to the flooding in New Bataan, Compostella Valley.

Cabunoc added that the company base of Charlie Company of the Army's 66th Infantry Battalion was swept by floodwaters, injuring a certain Lieutenant Alex Deazeta.

Typhoon Pablo track as of 2 a.m. Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Source: Pagasa

In a radio interview, 10th Infantry Division commander Major General Ariel Bernardo said that 25 others were also injured while nine soldiers are missing in the same affected area.

Also in a radio interview, Liza Mazo, Davao Region Office of the Civil Defense director, claimed that 34 bodies were accounted dead in the said area while the death toll in the entire region climbed to 41 as of Wednesday morning.

But amid the varying reports on the number of casualties, the NDRRMC appealed to concerned government agencies and officials to confirm first the reported deaths due to Typhoon Pablo.

"Gusto ko lang liwanagin na may proseso tayo na i-confirm ito lalo na doon sa mga unidentified (casualties) (We follow a certain process in identifying casualties)," Ramos said in a television interview on Wednesday morning.

"Kaya bago natin ihayag sa publiko kung sino 'yan, kailangan siguraduhin natin (So let us verify first who were the casualties before we report them to the public)," he added.

Ramos also admitted difficulties in updating their official death toll due to unstable communication in the areas hit by the Typhoon.

“’Yung communication natin ay bagsak kaya may kahirapan. Sana maintindihan ng ating mga kababayan 'yung pagka-delay (Our communication line has been down, so we experience delays. We hope the public will understand)," he said.

In the latest and official death toll of the NDRRMC, seven fatalities were from Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley, where most of the victims died due to drowning, including a government soldier only identified as Sergeant Olivares from the Charlie Company, 66th Infantry Battalion.

The agency added that 439 damaged houses were reported in Northern Mindanao and Caraga Region, while five bridges and six roads were reportedly damaged.

Power outages and communication interruption were also reported in areas in the said regions and also in Central Visayas, Davao Region, and in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The NDRRMC also said a total of 4,963 passengers, 527 rolling cargoes, 152 vessels and 59 motor bancas were stranded in ports all over country as of 6 a.m. Wednesday.

According to Pagasa, Typhoon Pablo is forecast to move west northwest at 24 kph while maintaining its speed in the next 24 hours. It would likely exit the Philippine area of responsibility via the West Philippine Sea by Thursday morning or afternoon. (Emmanuel Louis Bacani/Sunnex)

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