Storm Bopha Turns Back From China After 540 Dead in Philippines

Storm Bopha turned back from its path toward southern China and Vietnam and may dissipate within the day after killing at least 540 people in the Philippines in the nation’s most devastating cyclone this year.

The number of missing climbed to 827, with more than 1,000 injured, according to the 6 a.m. report of the Manila-based National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council. Cold air has weakened Bopha, with wind speeds dropping to 55 kilometers per hour, weather forecaster Samuel Duran said by phone. The cyclone, seen headed to China or Vietnam on Dec. 7, turned back yesterday, forecaster Meno Mendoza said.

Known locally as Pablo, Bopha packed winds of 175 kilometers per hour and gusts of 210 kilometers per hour when it landed in Davao Oriental in southern Mindanao province the morning of Dec. 4.

Bananas accounted for 67 percent of the 8.5 billion pesos ($208 million) in estimated damage, after the storm destroyed plantations in Mindanao, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala told local radio today. More than 46,000 homes were damaged, according to the state disaster agency’s latest bulletin.

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. Storm 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.

President Benigno Aquino yesterday declared a state of calamity in affected areas to allow the government to fix prices of basic goods and local authorities to tap emergency funds.

Looting Reports

Some stores and warehouses in coastal towns of Cateel, Baganga and Boston in Davao Oriental that still had no electricity reported cases of looting, police Senior Superintendent Rommil Mitra said yesterday. Unrecognizable, mud-caked bodies lined the road of some of these towns, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas said on Dec. 6.

Fatalities from Washi in 2011 surpassed the combined death toll of 929 from the Ketsana and Parma storms in 2009, which caused more than 38 billion pesos of damage. 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.

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