The Philippines was battered today by one of the strongest typhoons to hit the country this year, killing a reported 40 people and forcing more than 50,000 to flee from inundated villages in the country's south. Typhoon Bopha slammed into the Davao region at dawn, packing winds of 99mph and gusts of up to 121mph. It toppled trees, triggered landslides, and sent flash floods surging. A Philippines governor says at least 33 villagers and soldiers drowned when torrents of water rushed down a mountain. The victims included villagers who had fled their homes to a village hall, which was swamped by the flash flood. An army truck carrying soldiers and villagers also was washed away.
While some 20 typhoons and storms normally lash the archipelago nation annually, the southern provinces being battered by Bopha are unaccustomed to fierce typhoons, and the death toll is expected to rise once soldiers and police gain access to some far-flung villages. A rare storm that took the area by surprise last December killed more than 1,200 people and left many more homeless and traumatized. Officials were taking no chances this year, and President Benigno Aquino III made an appeal on national TV yesterday for people in Bopha's path to move to safety and take storm warnings seriously. (Read more typhoon stories.)