Philippine typhoon toll passes 700

Hundreds missing and thousands displaced as government struggles to cope in the aftermath of Typhoon Bopha.

The death toll of Typhoon Bopha in the Philippines has exceeded 700 and hundreds of people are still missing, the government has said.

Typhoon Bopha unleashed floods and landslides across the main southern island of Mindanao on December 4, obliterating entire communities.

Bopha in numbers:
People affected: 5.4million

Death toll: 714 and counting

Missing people: 890

Fishermen missing at sea: 313

Aid sought by UN globally: $65m

People displaced: 480,000

Homes destroyed: 115,000

At least 714 people were killed, making the typhoon the deadliest natural disaster in the Philippines since a tropical storm killed more than 1,200 people last year.

The civil defence office said that around 115,000 houses have been destroyed, and more than 116,000 people remain in government shelter as they are likely to wait months for new housing to be constructed.

The government said that a total of 890 people remain missing, many of them include at least 313 deep sea fishermen who are feared lost at sea.

Al Jazeera’s Marga Ortigas reporting from the Compostela Valley, one of the worst affected areas in the country’s south, said that people there were “overwhelmed” by the typhoon.

She said that evacuation warnings were sounded, but because the area was not used to experiencing typhoons as strong as Bopha, “many people did not understand what the warnings meant”.

“By the time many of the people thought to evacuate their homes, it was too late.” 

On Monday, the Philippines government and the United Nations launched a $65m global appeal for help, as at least 5.4 million people desperately need food and water.

Luiza Carvalho, country officer for the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said that the funds would initially help provide food, water and emergency shelter to 480,000 people in the worst-hit areas.

Unprecedented scale

“This is a scale the Philippines has not previously seen, we’re talking about tens of thousands of homes destroyed across southeast Mindanao,” Joe Curry of Catholic Relief Service told Al Jazeera.

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

“In my 15 years of service to the Red Cross, I have not seen such great destruction and devastation,” Gwendolyn Pang, secretary general of the Philippine Red Cross, told Al Jazeera.

“Almost everyone there is homeless, there is no clean water … there is very limited medical care.”

Families and fishing companies reported losing contact with more than 313 fishermen at sea.

The fishermen from southern General Santos city and nearby Sarangani province left a few days before Bopha hit the main southern island of Mindanao.

The fishermen were headed to the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea and to the Pacific Ocean and there had been no contact from them for a week.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies