NEW BATAAN, Philippines – A typhoon that had left the Philippines after killing nearly 600 people and leaving hundreds missing in the south has made a U-turn and is now threatening the country’s northwest, officials said Saturday.
The weather bureau raised storm warnings over parts of the main northern island of Luzon after Typhoon Bopha veered northeast. There was a strong possibility the disastrous storm would make a second landfall Sunday, but it might also make a loop and remain in the South China Sea, forecasters said. In either case, it was moving close to shore and disaster officials warned of heavy rains and winds and possible landslides in the mountainous region.
Another calamity in the north would stretch recovery efforts thin. Most government resources, including army and police, are currently focused on the south, where Bopha hit Tuesday before moving west into the South China Sea.
With many survivors still in shock, soldiers, police and outside volunteers formed most of the teams searching for bodies or signs of life under tons of fallen trees and boulders swept down from steep hills surrounding the worst-hit town of New Bataan, municipal spokesman Marlon Esperanza said.
“We are having a hard time finding guides,” he told The Associated Press. “Entire families were killed and the survivors … appear dazed. They can’t move.”
He said the rocks, mud, tree trunks and other rubble that litter the town have destroyed landmarks, making it doubly difficult to search places where houses once stood.
Nearly 400,000 people, mostly from Compostela Valley and nearby Davao Oriental provinces, have lost their homes and are crowded inside evacuation centers or staying with relatives.
The typhoon plowed through the main southern island of Mindanao, crossed the central Philippines and lingered over the South China Sea for the past two days. It made a U-turn Saturday and is now threatening the northwestern Ilocos region.
President Benigno Aquino III, after visiting the disaster zone, declared a state of national calamity late Friday to speed up rescue and rehabilitation, control prices of basic commodities and allow the quick release of emergency funds.