x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Typhoon may return to Bataan

A typhoon that killed nearly 600 people and left hundreds missing in the southern Philippines had made a U-turn and was threatening the country's north-west, officials said yesterday.

NEW BATAAN, Philippines // A typhoon that killed nearly 600 people and left hundreds missing in the southern Philippines had made a U-turn and was threatening the country's north-west, officials said yesterday.

The weather bureau raised storm warnings over parts of the main northern island of Luzon after Typhoon Bopha veered north-east.

There was a strong possibility the devastating storm would make a second landfall today, but it might also make a loop and remain in the South China Sea, forecasters said. In either case, it was moving close to shore and disaster officials warned of heavy rains and winds and possible landslides in the mountainous region.

Another calamity in the north would stretch recovery efforts thin. Most government resources, including army and police, are currently focused on the south, where Bopha hit on Tuesday.

With many survivors there still in shock, soldiers, police and outside volunteers formed most of the teams searching for bodies or signs of life under tonnes of fallen trees and boulders swept down from steep hills surrounding the worst-hit town of New Bataan, municipal spokesman Marlon Esperanza said.

"We are having a hard time finding guides," he said. "Entire families were killed and the survivors ... 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.

On Friday, bodies found jammed under fallen trees that could not be retrieved were marked with makeshift flags made of torn cloth so they could be spotted later.

Authorities decided to bury unidentified bodies in a common grave after forensic officials process them for future identification by relatives, Mr Esperanza said.

The town's public market has been converted into a temporary funeral parlour.