Storm Bopha returns to Philippines

MANILA: Heavy rain brought flooding fears in the north of the storm-battered Philippines as Typhoon Bopha returned Sunday, days after slamming into the south of the country and leaving almost 1,400 dead or missing.

While the powerful typhoon had weakened to a tropical storm, it was still causing downpours in the north even as hundreds in the south struggled to recover from its fury, said civil defence chief Benito Ramos.

"It will bring rain, not so much wind. We anticipate flash floods and landslides. We expect low-lying areas to be flooded again," Ramos told AFP.

Local relief and rescue teams along with the military were already in position while residents were on alert for rising waters.

Officials said 548 people are confirmed dead after Botha struck last week. The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said 827 are missing, a sharp rise on earlier estimates of about 500 unaccounted for.

Most of the deaths were in the southern island of Mindanao where mountainous gold-rush sites were hit hard. Almost 178,000 people were still huddled in crowded government evacuation centres after their homes were destroyed.

Ramos said the massive death toll in Mindanao had made residents in the north more cautious.

"They are more alert now. They were watching developments in the south where we incurred a substantial number of casualties and they were alarmed," he said.

Despite Bopha's weakening, the second-level of a three-step storm alert was raised over three northern provinces. Lower alerts were hoisted over surrounding areas, the government weather station said.

Bopha struck the southern Philippines last week, wiping whole towns off the map with its 210-kilometre (130-mile) per hour winds and heavy rains.

The strongest typhoon to hit the country this year cut through the central islands and was heading out to the South China Sea when it made a U-turn towards the north this weekend.

Early Sunday Bopha was just off the northern city of Laoag, packing gusts of 120 kilometres per hour as it moved east at 15 kilometres per hour, the weather station said.

- AFP/ir

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