NEW BATAAN, Philippines: Stunned parents searching for missing children examined a row of mud-stained bodies covered with banana leaves while survivors dried their soaked belongings on roadsides a day after a powerful typhoon killed more than 475 in the southern Philippines.
The official death toll rose to 475 by late Thursday.
Officials fear more bodies may be found as rescuers reach hard-hit areas that were isolated by landslides, floods and downed communications.
Roads to rivers ... residents of New Bataan in Compostela Valley province cross a damaged road after typhoon Bopha. Photo: AFP
At least 184 people died in the worst-hit province of Compostela Valley when Typhoon Bopha lashed the region on Tuesday, including 78 villagers and soldiers who perished in a flash flood that swamped two emergency shelters and a military camp, a provincial spokeswoman, Fe Maestre, said.
About 80 people survived the deluge in New Bataan with injuries, and the Interior Secretary, Mar Roxas, who visited the town, said 319 others were still missing.
"These were whole families among the registered missing," Mr Roxas told the ABS-CBN TV network. "Entire families may have been washed away."
Children survey the devastation in New Bataan. Photo: AFP
The farming town of 45,000 people was a muddy wasteland of collapsed houses and coconut and banana trees felled by Bopha's ferocious winds.
Bodies of victims were laid on the ground for viewing by people searching for missing relatives. Some were badly mangled after being dragged by raging flood waters over rocks and other debris. A man sprayed insecticide on the remains to keep away swarms of flies.
A father wept when he found the body of his child after lifting a plastic cover. A mother went away in tears, unable to find her missing children. "I have three children," she said repeatedly, flashing three fingers before a TV cameraman.
Residents salvage what they can from destroyed homes in Compostela Valley. Photo: Reuters
Two men carried the mud-caked body of an unidentified girl that was covered with coconut leaves on a makeshift stretcher made from a blanket and wooden poles.
Dionisia Requinto, 43, felt lucky to have survived with her husband and their eight children after swirling flood waters surrounded their home. She said they escaped and made their way up a hill to safety, bracing themselves against boulders and fallen trees as they climbed.
"The water rose so fast," she said. "It was horrible. I thought it was going to be our end."
Typhoon Bopha causes death and destruction across the Philippines
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In nearby Davao Oriental, the coastal province first struck by the typhoon as it blew from the Pacific Ocean, at least 115 people perished, mostly in three towns that were so battered that it was hard to find any buildings with roofs remaining, provincial officer Freddie Bendulo and other officials said.
After slamming into Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley, Bopha roared quickly across the southern Mindanao and central regions, knocking out power in two provinces, triggering landslides and leaving houses and plantations damaged. More than 170,000 fled to evacuation centres.