MANILA: Typhoon Bopha has killed at least 52 people in the Philippines, officials and television reports say, as the strongest storm to hit the country this year wreaks devastation.
ABS-CBN television said 43 of the deaths occurred in one southern town that was in the direct path of Bopha's 210 km/h winds soon after it hit land on Mindanao island's east coast at dawn.
"I've counted 43 bodies on the floor," reporter Vina Araneta told the station by telephone from a government building she said had been converted into a temporary mortuary in New Bataan.
The military said a landslide destroyed a Philippine Army patrol base in a mountainous area of the town, while a local official said an army truck laden with soldiers and civilians was swept away in a flash flood.
Neither the civil defence office in Manila nor the armed forces could give official confirmation of the 43 reported deaths, saying their rescuers were having a hard time reaching the remote town.
Officials said there were nine confirmed deaths, all but one on Mindanao island in the country's south. Three of the victims were crushed by falling trees.
Four fishermen were reported missing off Mindanao's east coast, said Freddie Bendulo, planning and development officer of Davao Oriental province.
By early evening a weakened Bopha was streaking across the Sulu Sea, having changed course westward in the afternoon after briefly threatening the central tourist islands of Bohol, Cebu and Negros, the state weather service said.
The typhoon brought driving rain and strong winds, toppling trees and power lines, causing localised flooding and forcing more than 56,000 to seek refuge in emergency shelters according to a civil defence office update.
Winds blew roofs off some buildings and residents of coastal and low-lying communities in Mindanao moved into shelters as floods hit some areas, residents and AFP reporters said.
Television footage showed logs being swept down Mindanao's Sumilao river and utility workers cutting up fallen trees that were blocking highways. They also showed large numbers of people lying on mats and cardboard sheets on the concrete floors of gyms turned into temporary shelters.
Almost 150 flights to and from Mindanao and the central islands have been grounded since Monday night and more than 3000 ferry passengers stranded as vessels were ordered to stay in port, the civil defence update said.
Large parts of Mindanao, which is not normally hit by typhoons, were still without electricity on Tuesday night, it said.
In Cagayan de Oro city, where giant waves crashed down on the shoreline, the mayor, Vicente Emano, said police rounded up all residents of low-lying areas and moved them to government shelters.
Edgie Atilano, 23, a waiter in Tagum City, said he and his family hunkered down in their home as Bopha bore down.
"At 3am, we were woken by strong rain and howling winds. Trees and branches started snapping off near the house," he said.
"This is my first time to experience a strong typhoon. It was a bit scary."