Four People Killed as Storm Bopha Slams Into Philippines

Storm Bopha Slams Into Southern Philippines, Forcing Evacuations
Workers clear a road with a fallen tree after Typhoon Bophal hit the city of Tagum, Davao del Norter province, on the southern island of Mindanao, Philippines. Source: AFP/Getty Images

Storm Bopha lashed the southern Philippine island of Mindanao, killing at least four people, forcing thousands to evacuate and prompting Philippine Airlines Inc. and Cebu Air Inc. to cancel flights.

Two people were killed after they were hit by trees knocked down by the cyclone, known locally as Pablo, in separate incidents in Misamis Oriental and Siquijor provinces, Civil Defense Chief Benito Ramos told reporters today in Manila. A woman was killed when a house collapsed in Davao Oriental province while a soldier died in Compostela Valley province after he was carried away by floodwaters, he said.

Bopha’s gusts weakened to 195 kilometers (121 miles) per hour, according to the state weather bureau’s 5 p.m. update, from as strong as 210 kilometers per hour earlier.

The storm “is no joke, but the government is prepared,” President Benigno Aquino said in a televised speech yesterday. More than 53,400 people in the storm’s path have been evacuated, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said on its website, while about 3,200 are stranded at sea ports across the country after shipping services were shut down.

“We expect floods and landslides,” state weather forecaster Fernando Cada said by phone today, adding that Bopha may not cause the same devastation as last year’s Storm Washi, the deadliest to hit the Philippines since 2008.

Flight Disruptions

The Southeast Asian nation is regularly battered by cyclones that form over the Pacific Ocean, causing devastation that often prompts criticism of the government’s disaster-response efforts. Washi killed more than 1,200 people, mostly in Mindanao, in December 2011. In September 2009, Storm Ketsana flooded Manila and parts of Luzon, killing more than 400 people. Monsoon rains flooded half of the Manila region in August.

Philippine Airlines, Air Philippines Corp., and Cebu Air Inc. all announced flight cancellations today. About 65 flights were canceled, the government said.

Strong winds knocked down trees and power lines in Surigao del Sur, leaving 90 percent of the province without power, Governor Johnny Pimentel told local radio station DZMM. Torrential rain and strong gusts hit Surigao del Norte, provincial administrator Primo Plaza said in a separate interview with DZMM.

The storm signal in Surigao province where Nickel Asia Corp.’s Taganito mine is located, was dropped to the lowest level with winds expected at 30 kilometers to 60 kilometers per hour.

Storm Damage

Soldiers and police are standing by to help evacuate people and provide medical aid, the disaster management agency said. Bopha may cause less flooding than Washi because it wasn’t preceded by days of heavy rain, said Cada, the state weather forecaster.

Fatalities from Washi surpassed the combined death toll of 929 from the Ketsana and Parma storms in 2009, which caused more than 38 billion pesos ($928 million) of damage to homes, infrastructure and farm output. Typhoon Fengshen killed about 1,300 people in June 2008 and caused about 7 billion pesos of damage to crops and irrigation. The death toll from Fengshen included more than 900 people aboard a ship that capsized.

Total damage caused by typhoons and other natural disasters in 2011 reached 59.2 billion pesos, Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said in August. That month, inflation accelerated to 3.8 percent, the fastest pace in seven months, on supply disruptions that followed flooding caused by torrential rains.

Inflation probably slowed to 3 percent last month, according to the median estimate of 17 economists surveyed by Bloomberg before a report due for release at 9 a.m. tomorrow.

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