by Alito L. Malinao
MANILA, Dec. 7 (Xinhua) -- As the death toll from typhoon Bopha (local name Pablo) increased to 418 on Friday and is still rising, experts and analysts say killer typhoons that hit the Philippines are caused by the climate change.
According to the Global Climate Risk Index, the Philippines had the world's highest death toll caused by weather-related disasters last year.
A total of 1,659 people died from typhoons, floods, landslides, and heavy rains in 2011 in the Philippines, the study released Wednesday by Germanwatch on the sidelines of a major UN climate change conference now ongoing in Doha, Qatar, said.
The two-week Doha conference, attended by climate officials from some 200 countries, is being held while Philippine authorities are still feverishly searching for more victims of typhoon Bopha.
The official death toll from the typhoon as of Friday morning has been placed by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), the government agency monitoring disasters in the Philippines, at 418.
But the number of casualties could still rise as the hundreds reported missing may have perished in the worst typhoon that pummeled several provinces in the island of Mindanao in the southern Philippines.
More than 200 of the victims were from the provinces of Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental in eastern Mindanao. The worst hit was the town of New Bataan in Compostela Valley which has been literally wiped out by rampaging floodwaters.
President Benigno Aquino has already ordered a massive search and retrieval operations in the affected areas as well as providing assistance to the victims who have survived.
On Wednesday, Aquino dispatched Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas to the area to supervise all government operations that include the burial of the dead.
According to Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman, body bags and other emergency supplies would be rushed to affected areas.
"The bodies are left lying on the ground in the open in New Bataan and we don't want to risk the spread of disease," Soliman told newsmen.
The Philippines is one of the countries in the world that is frequently visited by super typhoons.
An average of 20 typhoons hit the Philippines annually, causing loss of lives and billions of dollars worth of properties and agricultural crops damaged by floodwaters.
Almost a year ago, in mid-December, super typhoon "Washi" also hit Mindanao, killing about 1,600 people.
On Sept. 27, 2009 tropical storm "Ketsana" pummeled the country with heavy downfall that caused massive flashfloods that killed hundreds, displaced half a million people and destroyed more than one billion pesos (about 28 million dollars) worth of properties.
But the worst typhoon and flooding that hit the Philippines occurred in the City of Ormoc in the province of Leyte in the Central Visayas on Nov. 15, 1991 that killed about 8,000 people, half of the victims' bodies were never recovered.
The Germanwatch index on climate change said that the Philippines also placed on the top 5 on the list of the 10 most affected countries. Thailand topped the list, followed by Cambodia, Pakistan, and El Salvador.
"In 2011, the Philippines endured a harsh typhoon season and were severely hit by tropical storm "Washi" (locally called " Sendong") which claimed over 1,600 flood victims, topping the list for most human casualties of the year," said the report authored by Sven Harmeling and David Eckstein.
The study, citing new scientific data, directly attributed extreme weather events to climate change.
"While a couple of years ago there was hardly any event where science experts made a clear link to climate change, the research community has progressed," it said.
The study warned that developing countries are generally more affected than developed countries.
"With regard to future climate change, the Climate Risk Index can serve as a warning signal indicating past vulnerability which may further increase in regions where extreme events will become more frequent or more severe through climate change," it added.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon told the Doha conference that the abnormal climate change in the world is now the "new normal," adding that it is about time to prove wrong those who still have doubts about global warming.
The Philippines, which is taking part in the Doha conference, spearheaded a call to "preserve the Kyoto Protocol, the only legally binding, rules-based international climate change instrument with quantitative emissions reduction targets."
More than 20 countries supported the Philippines' stand that was delivered in plenary on the opening day of the global climate treaty talks Monday by Philippine Climate Change Commissioner Naderev Sano.
Sano said the Philippine position is being supported by countries representing Africa, Asia and Latin America, including Algeria, Argentina, Malaysia, India, and China that have a combined population of close to 3.5 billion.