Philippine death toll from Typhoon Bopha rises

The death toll from a powerful storm that hit the southern Philippines is continuing to rise, as rescue teams headed for affected areas.

More than 80 people are now known to have died after Typhoon Bopha struck Mindanao island on Tuesday, bringing rain and high winds.

Tens of thousands were evacuated ahead of the storm, which is now passing over the western island of Palawan.

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In Andap village in New Bataan town, at least 43 were killed in flash floods.

Water and mud rushed down mountainous slopes to engulf a school and a village hall serving as evacuation centres.

"They thought that they were already secure in a safe area, but they didn't know the torrents of water would go their way," Compostela Valley Provincial Governor Arturo Uy told local media.

A road into the town was blocked by debris, reports said, but the military said it was hoping to get helicopters into the area to assess the situation.

Compostela Valley province is the hardest-hit area in the east of Mindanao island. Neighbouring Davao Oriental province was also badly affected, with reports of between 30 and 50 people killed.

Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman said body bags and other emergency supplies would be rushed to affected areas after the typhoon devastated homes.

"The bodies are left lying on the ground in the open in New Bataan and we don't want to risk the spread of disease," she told Agence-France Presse news agency.

Davao Oriental Governor Corazon Malanyaon said roads to dozens of towns were impassable because of fallen trees and collapsed bridges, telling local media getting into them was like "running an obstacle course".

She said initial reports indicated that in one town, Cateel, 95% of buildings had been damaged. Twenty-three people had drowned or were buried under fallen trees or buildings there, she said.

Rescuers have also pulled out dozens of people from the mud, many of whom are now being treated in evacuation centres and hospitals. Most suffered facial wounds or limb injuries.

Among the missing were nine soldiers, an army official was quoted as saying.

Dozens of domestic flights and ferry services in the central and south of the country were suspended and schools and businesses were closed.

The typhoon is expected to move out into the South China Sea on Thursday after it passes over Palawan.

Bopha comes a year after Typhoon Washi killed more than 1,500 people in the southern Philippines.

The storm struck from 16 to 18 December, devastating the cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan on the island's north coast.

Many of those who died were sleeping as Typhoon Washi caused rivers to burst their banks, leading to landslides. Entire villages were washed away.

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