Typhoon Bopha Changes Course Back Towards Philippines

The Typhoon that ravaged the Philippines and killed 548 people earlier this week has changed course and is threatening to hit the country again on Sunday.

The state weather service says that Typhoon Bopha will slam into the northern tip of the main island of Luzon early on Sunday, packing gusts of up to 160 km/h. The storm has already left 548 people dead, about 500 others missing, and hundreds of thousands more homeless.

Search parties and disaster relief efforts are currently focused in the South, particularly the worst hit town of New Bataan, which experienced gusts of up to 210 km/h on Tuesday.

“We are having a hard time finding guides. Entire families were killed and the survivors… appear dazed. They can’t move, ” municipal spokesman Marlon Esperanza told the Associated Press.

The state weather service tracked the eye of the cyclone about 230km west of the northern town of Sinait at 4pm on Friday and is slowly moving northeast. It was likely to bring heavy rainfall to the area, civil defence office director Benito Ramos told a news conference on Saturday.

“People there need to take precautions,” he added.

Bopha was forecast to leave the Philippine area tomorrow, but is now expected to make landfall on Sunday. Forecasters said there is a chance that the storm will take a loop and remain in the South China Sea, but in either case, heavy rains, winds, and possible landslides threaten the mountainous region.

In Bangkok, Thailand, U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said the Philippines had appealed for international aid. She said many countries have already provided assistance, but did not specify the amounts.