Bopha: 600 dead, 600 still missing


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The Independent Online

Search and rescue operations following a typhoon that killed nearly 600 people in the southern Philippines have been hampered because many residents of this ravaged farming community are too stunned to help. With an estimated 600 people still missing after Typhoon Bopha struck on Tuesday, soldiers, police and volunteers from outside New Bataan have formed the bulk of the teams searching for bodies or signs of life under tons of fallen trees and boulders that were swept down from steep hills surrounding the town.

A municipal spokesman, Marlon Esperanza, said: "We are having a hard time finding guides. Entire families were killed and the survivors are in shock. They appear dazed. They can't move." He said the rocks, mud, tree trunks and other rubble that litter the town have destroyed landmarks, making it doubly difficult to search places where houses once stood. On Friday, bodies found jammed under fallen trees that could not be retrieved were marked with makeshift flags made of torn cloth so they can be spotted by retrieval teams.

Nearly 400,000 people, mostly from Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental provinces, have lost their homes and are crowded inside evacuation centres or staying with relatives.