Entire families lost as death toll in Philippines exceeds 500

NASA image of Typhoon Bopha

Typhoon Bopha struck the southern Philippines early Tuesday morning, Dec. 4. The death toll is more than 500 according to local officials. The flash floods have also caused a far-reaching destruction of homes and other buildings, though no official count has been reported.

Bopha struck the southern island of Mindanao with winds up to 100 miles per hour, the fiercest typhoon to hit the area in decades. At least 57,000 were affected by the storm according to the Philippines News Agency. About 155,000 residents are still in shelters as of Tuesday, with the large number being attributed to early evacuation procedures. The number is expected to grow.

The out-of-season storm had developed into a super typhoon by Monday, Dec. 3, with winds equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane as it traveled over the Atlantic Ocean towards the Philippines. However, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services administration said the storm weakened as it reached landfall as is typical with storms, slightly lessening the damage that could have been done.

Red Cross officials said that the local government did a good job of moving citizens who were in the most direct path of danger of being harmed by the storm, lessening the number of deaths that could have occurred. Millions of dollars of relief supplies, as well as relief crews, were also in place before the storm hit for quick delivery to storm-hit areas.

News of Typhoon Bopha’s coming triggered bad memories of Severe Tropical Storm Washi, also known as Sedong to natives of the Philippines, which hit the same region a year ago. Despite having lesser winds, Sedong killed more than 1,200 people and entire coastal villages were washed out to sea due to major flash flooding. A humanitarian crisis followed Sedong; despite the mass destruction it appears less likely that the same will occur as a result of Bopha as there was better preparation.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the families that were affected by the typhoon. It is such an unfortunate event to witness, and we hope to mobilize relief efforts soon. To donate to the Philippine Red Cross, please visit: http://www.redcross.org.ph/donate," said Marian Manaspal, president of the Philippine Society of Boston College, in a statement released to Gavel Media.

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Erin McGarvey