Deadly floods are common on resource-rich Mindanao Island. Last December at the island's opposite end, 1,200 people died as a powerful storm overflowed rivers. Then and now, raging flash floods, logs and large rocks carried people to their deaths.
The Bureau of Mines and Geosciences had issued warnings before the typhoon to people living in flood-prone areas, but in the Compostela Valley, nearly every area is flood-prone.
Bureau Director Leo Jasareno said about 80 percent of the valley is a danger zone due to a combination of factors, including the mountains and rivers, as well as logging that has stripped hills of trees that minimize landslides and absorb rainwater. Logging has been banned since last year's fatal flooding, but it continues illegally.
Nearly 80 villages and soldiers died in the New Bataan village of Andap when a flash flood swamped the two emergency shelters and a military camp. Jasareno said Andap had been an especially dangerous place to be.
"There is the Mayo River there. It's a natural channel way of the water from the upstream," he said. "The water has no other path but Andap village."
People stay because the land is rich in natural resources, including timber and gold, which is dug by small-scale miners.
Compostela Valley Gov. Arturo Uy rejected criticism by scientists and central government officials that his flood-ravaged communities should relocate.
"It's not possible to have no houses there because even the town center was hit. You mean to say the whole town will be abandoned?" Uy told the AP. He doubted the basis for classifying the area as dangerous and said he had urged the central government to review the hazard maps.
Uy said previous floods had been far less damaging, and had never threatened the places where the doomed emergency centers had been set up: the village hall, a health center, a covered court.
"We thought they would be safe there, but the volume of water was so huge," he said.
The deaths came despite efforts by President Benigno Aquino III's government to force residents out of high-risk communities as the typhoon approached. Vice President Jejomar Binay on Thursday directed local executives, police and military officials not to allow those displaced to return to their homes in areas classified as danger zones. However, it wasn't clear how quickly and where substitute homes would be built.
On Thursday, residents armed with hammers began to repair devastated homes and wash their muddy belongings, taking advantage of the sunny weather.
They stopped when a rescuer in orange overalls blew his whistle. He had seen a hand sticking out of a muddy heap of logs, rocks and debris.
Soldiers and volunteers converged on the pile with shovels and crowbars. They pulled four bodies from the muck, including two children.