Christ­mas ty­phoon leaves four dead in Philip­pines

8 ferry crew­men still miss­ing as storm leaves ar­chi­pel­ago

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

A pow­er­ful ty­phoon left at least four peo­ple dead and eight miss­ing as it crossed the Philip­pine ar­chi­pel­ago yes­ter­day, spoil­ing the Christ­mas hol­i­days with strong winds, heavy rains and de­struc­tive flood­ing. Nock-Ten made land­fall on the eastern is­land prov­ince of Catan­d­u­anes with gusts of 235 kilo­me­tres (146 miles) an hour on Christ­mas Day, rav­aging the Bi­col re­gion and sur­round­ing ar­eas be­fore mov­ing west across the coun­try. A cou­ple per­ished in a flood while an el­derly man was crushed to death by a fall­ing wall, the gov­er­nor of Al­bay prov­ince, Al Bichara, told lo­cal me­dia. An­other per­son was killed and two more were in­jured when the storm top­pled a power line in Que­zon prov­ince, elec­tro­cut­ing them, a po­lice re­port said.

An an­chored ferry went down off the coastal prov­ince of Batan­gas yes­ter­day with eight crew­men still miss­ing, said coast­guard of­fi­cer Joy Vil­le­gas. Two peo­ple also died af­ter suf­fer­ing heart at­tacks dur­ing the storm but it was un­clear if those deaths were di­rectly re­lated to the ty­phoon, lo­cal gov­ern­ment re­ports said.

More than 383,000 peo­ple were forced to flee their homes while over 80 do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional flights were can­celled due to the storm, the civil de­fence of­fice said. The coast­guard on Sun­day or­dered beaches south of Manila to be cleared of hol­i­day­mak­ers by yes­ter­day.

The un­usu­ally late storm cut off elec­tric­ity to mil­lions and forced gov­ern­ment agen­cies to or­der evac­u­a­tions of whole com­mu­ni­ties in Bi­col, mar­ring the tra­di­tional Christ­mas cel­e­bra­tions in this largely Chris­tian na­tion.

Wet Christ­mas

In the Bi­col town of Li­gao, many streets and sur­round­ing farms were cov­ered by an­kle-deep wa­ter while some homes re­mained caked in mud left by flood­ing. Masseuse Erna An­gela Pin­tor, 20, said she and her fam­ily spent a sleep­less Christ­mas in fear as the strong winds ripped off part of their roof.

Neigh­bours liv­ing near a river sought refuge in their home as the wa­ters rose to their chests, she said, though her own fam­ily was luck­ier.

“The floods (last night) only reached to our knees. Thank good­ness the cur­rent wasn’t that strong,” she told AFP. “This was sup­posed to be a cel­e­bra­tion but we can­not cel­e­brate. This is a sad Christ­mas for us. No one (in the fam­ily) died but a lot of our neigh­bours’ homes were washed away.”

The dis­as­ter mon­i­tor­ing coun­cil said more than 12,000 peo­ple spent Christ­mas stuck at ports af­ter au­thor­i­ties barred fer­ries from sail­ing due to the storm.

The coun­cil’s spokes­woman Mina Marasi­gan also said hun­dreds of peo­ple in Bi­col cel­e­brated Christ­mas in evac­u­a­tion cen­tres where many had to make do with emer­gency food packs.

Some lo­cal of­fi­cials had of­fered roast pigs-the tra­di­tional Filipino hol­i­day fare-to en­tice peo­ple to go to the shel­ters, Marasi­gan said.

Manila spared

By late yes­ter­day af­ter­noon the ty­phoon had weak­ened, with wind gusts of 180 kilo­me­tres per hour, and was in the South China Sea head­ing west away from the coun­try, gov­ern­ment weather fore­caster Gener Quit­long said. Nock-Ten had been ex­pected to bring heavy rains and winds to Manila, but the city of 13 mil­lion res­i­dents was spared af­ter the ty­phoon lost force as it crossed the eastern is­lands.

“It was like a bless­ing in dis­guise. Ev­ery time it hit land, its di­am­e­ter less­ened. It also lost mois­ture so it be­came weaker,” Quit­long told AFP. Some 20 ty­phoons and storms strike the Philip­pines each year, rou­tinely killing hun­dreds of peo­ple. Huge tsunami-like waves dev­as­tated the city of Ta­cloban and nearby ar­eas when su­per ty­phoon Haiyan struck the cen­tral Philip­pines in Novem­ber 2013, leav­ing 7,350 peo­ple dead or miss­ing. —AFP

MANILA: Ve­hi­cles nav­i­gate a flood-prone area caused by rains from Ty­phoon Nock-Ten in Que­zon city, north of Manila yes­ter­day. —AP

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