Fe­ro­cious ty­phoon slams into Philip­pines

Waterloo Region Record - - Canada & World - AARON FAVILA AND JOEAL CALUPITAN

TUGUE­GARAO, PHILIP­PINES — Ty­phoon Mangkhut slammed into the coun­try’s north­east­ern coast early Satur­day, with wit­nesses say­ing the storm’s fe­ro­cious wind and blind­ing rain ripped off tin roof sheets and knocked out power at the start of the on­slaught.

The ty­phoon made land­fall be­fore dawn in the coastal town of Bag­gao in Ca­gayan prov­ince on the north­ern tip of Lu­zon is­land, an agri­cul­tural re­gion of flood-prone rice plains and moun­tain provinces of­ten hit by land­slides.

More than five mil­lion people are at risk from the storm, which the Hawaii-based Joint Ty­phoon Warn­ing Cen­ter cat­e­go­rizes as a su­per ty­phoon with pow­er­ful winds and gusts equiv­a­lent to a Cat­e­gory 5 At­lantic hur­ri­cane.

There were no im­me­di­ate re­ports of ma­jor dam­ages or ca­su­al­ties in the re­gion, where a mas­sive evac­u­a­tion from high-risk ar­eas has been un­der­way for the last two days.

As­so­ci­ated Press jour­nal­ists in a ho­tel in Ca­gayan’s cap­i­tal city of Tugue­garao saw tin roof sheets and other de­bris hur­tle through the air and store signs crash to the ground. Cars shook as gusts pum­melled a park­ing lot.

With a huge rain-cloud band 900 kilo­me­tres wide, com­bined with sea­sonal mon­soon rains, the ty­phoon could bring in­tense rain that could set off land­slides and flash floods. Storm warn­ings have been raised in al­most all the provinces across the main north­ern is­land of Lu­zon, in­clud­ing the cap­i­tal, Manila, re­strict­ing sea and air travel.

Mangkhut was tracked late Fri­day about 190 kilo­me­tres away in the Pa­cific with sus­tained winds of 205 km/h and gusts of up to 255 km/h, fore­cast­ers said.

Even if the ty­phoon weak­ens slightly after slam­ming ashore, its winds will re­main very de­struc­tive, gov­ern­ment fore­caster Rene Pa­ciente said.

“It can lift cars, you can’t stand, you can’t even crawl against that wind,” Pa­ciente told re­porters late Fri­day in Manila.

In Ca­gayan’s cap­i­tal city of Tugue­garao, res­i­dents braced for the ty­phoon’s fury by re­in­forc­ing homes and build­ings and stock­ing up on food.

“It was busy ear­lier in the hard­ware store and people were buy­ing wood, nails, tin wire, ply­wood and um­brel­las,” said Ben­jamin Banez, who owns a three-storey ho­tel where work­ers were busy ham­mer­ing up wooden boards to pro­tect glass pan­els.

A su­per ty­phoon wrought heavy dam­age to Banez’s ho­tel and the rest of Ca­gayan in 2016. “We’re pray­ing that there will be less dam­age this time, although we know that this one will be very strong,” Banez said.

Ninia Grace Abe­des aban­doned her bam­boo hut and took her four chil­dren to a school build­ing serv­ing as an emer­gency shel­ter. The 33-year-old said the 2016 ty­phoon blew away their hut, which they aban­doned be­fore the storm hit. “If we didn’t, all of us would be dead,” she said.

More than 15,300 people had been moved to safety in north­ern provinces by Fri­day af­ter­noon, the Of­fice of Civil De­fence said.

Con­cerns over mas­sive storm surges that could be whipped in­land by the ty­phoon’s winds prompted war­dens to move 143 de­tainees from a jail in Ca­gayan’s Aparri town to nearby towns, of­fi­cials said.

The ty­phoon hit at the start of the rice and corn har­vest­ing sea­son in Ca­gayan, a ma­jor agri­cul­tural pro­ducer, prompt­ing farm­ers to scramble to save what they could of their crops, Ca­gayan Gov. Manuel Mamba said. The threat to agri­cul­ture comes as the Philip­pines tries to cope with rice short­ages.

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