Powerful typhoon lashes Philippines, killing at least 12
Typhoon Mangkhut lashed the northern Philippines with destructive winds and heavy rain that set off landslides and destroyed homes on Saturday, leaving at least 12 people dead and six missing, as southern China braced for the powerful storm.
The strongest typhoon to hit the disaster-prone Philippines this year slammed ashore before dawn in Cagayan province on the northeastern tip of Luzon island, a breadbasket that is also a region of flood-prone rice plains and mountain provinces with a history of deadly landslides, AP reported.
At least three people died and six others were missing in the mountain city of Baguio after ferocious winds and rain destroyed several houses and set off landslides, which also blocked roads to the popular vacation destination, said the city’s mayor, Mauricio Domogan.
Authorities were verifying the drownings of three people, including two children. They also were checking to see what happened to about 70 men who reportedly returned to their coastal village in Cagayan to check on their homes as the typhoon drew closer Friday, sparking concerns over possible storm surges.
Mangkhut’s sustained winds weakened to 170 kilometers (105 miles) per hour with gusts of up to 260 kph (161 mph) after it sliced northwestward across Luzon then blew out to the South China Sea, aiming at southern China and Hong Kong, where residents braced for the worst.
With the weather easing, officials warned there was lingering danger.
“It’s still a life and death situation,” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said by phone, citing past drownings in swollen rivers in mountain provinces after storms had passed.
Storm warnings remained in effect in 10 northern provinces, including Cagayan, which could still be lashed by devastating winds, forecasters said. Thousands of people in the typhoon’s path had been evacuated.
The Tuguegarao airport terminal was badly damaged, its roof and glass windows shattered by strong winds that also sent chairs, tables and papers flipping about inside, Lorenzana said.
A government damage assessment was underway except in areas still being battered by winds and rain. Two air force C-130 cargo planes and 10 helicopters were on standby in Manila to help transport rescuers and aid supplies.
More than 5 million people were at risk from the storm, which the Hawaii-based Joint Typhoon Warning Center downgraded from a super typhoon. Mangkhut, however, was still punching powerful winds and gusts equivalent to a Category 4 Atlantic hurricane.
In nearby Fujian Province in China, 51,000 people were evacuated from fishing boats and around 11,000 vessels returned to port on Saturday morning.
China’s National Meteorological Center issued an alert saying Mangkhut would make landfall somewhere on the coast in Guangdong province on Sunday afternoon or evening.
Mangkhut, the Thai word for mangosteen fruit, is the 15th storm this year to batter the Philippines, which is hit by about 20 a year and is considered one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries.
In 2013, Typhoon Haiyan left more than 7,300 people dead or missing, flattened villages, swept ships inland and displaced more than 5 million in the central Philippines.