Typhoon hits south Philippines, 40 dead or missing: media

MANILA Tue Dec 4, 2012 12:13pm EST

Residents saw an uprooted tree to clear the road after Typhoon Bopha hit Tagum City, southern Philippines December 4, 2012. Typhoon Bopha made landfall in southern Philippines early Tuesday, bringing heavy rains and strong winds, forcing 41,600 people living in coastal areas to flee their homes. REUTERS/Stringer

Residents saw an uprooted tree to clear the road after Typhoon Bopha hit Tagum City, southern Philippines December 4, 2012. Typhoon Bopha made landfall in southern Philippines early Tuesday, bringing heavy rains and strong winds, forcing 41,600 people living in coastal areas to flee their homes.

Credit: Reuters/Stringer

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MANILA (Reuters) - The strongest typhoon to hit the Philippines this year pounded the southern island of Mindanao on Tuesday and about 40 people were dead or missing, media said, after the storm destroyed homes and brought down power and communication lines.

Typhoon Bopha, with wind gusts of up to 195 kph (121 mph), made landfall at dawn, uprooting trees and tearing off roofs.

About 40 people were killed or missing in flash floods and landslides near a mining area on Mindanao, ABS-CBN television reported, saying waters and soil had swept through an army post.

A television reporter said she saw numerous bodies lined up near the army base. A military spokesman earlier said about 20 people, including six soldiers, were missing.

Disaster official Liza Mazo, said more casualties were expected to be discovered as search and rescue teams fanned out.

Media said dozens of people were injured by flying debris, falling trees and swept away by swollen rivers and flash floods.

But the relatively low death toll was due in part to an early evacuation. More than 155,000 people were in shelters late on Tuesday.

About 20 typhoons hit the Philippines every year, often causing death and destruction. Typhoon Washi killed 1,500 people on Mindanao in 2011.

"We have suffered enough," Felicitas Cabusao said, clutching a Holy Rosary beside her crying 12-year-old daughter.

Cabusao said her daughter survived Typhoon Washi, almost exactly a year ago, after she was washed out to sea when flash floods swept away entire coastal villages.

Dozens of domestic flights and ferry services in the central and southern Philippines were suspended on Tuesday. Schools and some businesses were closed.

Bopha, with a storm cloud covering of 500 km (310 miles), was moving west-northwest and was expected to move out into the South China Sea by Thursday.

Farm Minister Proceso Alcala said on Monday he expected minimal damage to rice and corn crops as they had only recently been planted and could be replaced quickly if damaged.

(Reporting By Manuel Mogato; Editing by Nick Macfie and Robert Birsel)

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