Of­fi­cials search for crew of ship sunk by typhoon

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

The Philip­pine coast guard pressed its search yesterday for 18 crew­men from a cargo ship that sank at the height of Typhoon Nock­Ten, which struck the coun­try on Christ­mas Day. Coast guard spokesman Ar­mand Balilo said 14 other crew­men have been res­cued and one died af­ter the M/V Star­lite At­lantic sank off Mabini town in Batan­gas prov­ince, where the pow­er­ful typhoon passed Mon­day on its way out of the coun­try into the South China Sea.

Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte flew to ty­phoonhit prov­inces and warned in a speech in Ca­marines Sur that he’ll throw out of a he­li­copter any­body who would steal the fi­nan­cial aid he brought for storm sur­vivors. “I’ve done that, why won’t I do it again?” Duterte said in a threat that won ap­plause from typhoon sur­vivors. The Star­lite At­lantic sought cover in an an­chor­age area as the typhoon passed and its crew de­cided to move to safer wa­ters but en­coun­tered huge waves and fierce winds, caus­ing their ship to sink, Balilo said, adding that an­other pas­sen­ger and cargo ship ran aground in Mabini, south of Manila.

At least seven peo­ple died from the typhoon, in­clud­ing the sunken ship’s crew­man and vil­lagers who drowned from flood­ing or were pinned by fallen trees or a col­lapsed wall in Al­bay and Que­zon prov­inces. Duterte flew to the hard-hit town of Virac on the east­ern is­land prov­ince of Catan­d­u­anes, where the typhoon made land­fall on Sun­day night, to wit­ness the dis­tri­bu­tion of food packs to res­i­dents. Ahead of the pres­i­dent’s visit, De­fense Sec­re­tary Delfin Loren­zana and top mil­i­tary of­fi­cials flew to Virac and were stunned by the ex­tent of dev­as­ta­tion.

“Their com­mon per­cep­tion is that Virac is com­pletely dev­as­tated,” mil­i­tary spokesman Brig Gen Resti­tuto Padilla said of the coastal town of more than 70,000 peo­ple. The prov­ince’s co­conut plan­ta­tions, the pri­mary in­dus­try, were de­stroyed and may take five to 10 years to re­cover, he said. From a he­li­copter, “we saw the dev­as­ta­tion of co­conuts, abaca and the forests. There are lots of houses with­out roofs,” Loren­zana said by text mes­sage. “There is no elec­tric­ity yet in all of Catan­d­u­anes.”

In Ca­marines Sur, Duterte warned that who­ever touches the fi­nan­cial aid for the ty­phoonbat­tered prov­ince, “I will fetch you in a he­li­copter and on the way to Manila, I’ll throw you out.” He said with­out elab­o­rat­ing that “I’ve done that,” sug­gest­ing they were kid­nap­pers who killed or raped cap­tives even af­ter being paid ran­soms. “I’ll throw you at a low al­ti­tude, not that high, be­cause in the length of the fall you may be able to de­velop wings, just at the right (al­ti­tude) so the im­pact of your crash won’t be heard.”

The pres­i­dent’s past ex­treme com­ments against sus­pected drug push­ers and cor­rupt of­fi­cials have left many won­der­ing if he was ex­ag­ger­at­ing, and ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials have said he of­ten uses hy­per­bole as a scare tac­tic. Still, UN High Com­mis­sioner for Hu­man Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hus­sein last week called on Philip­pine au­thor­i­ties to in­ves­ti­gate Duterte for mur­der af­ter he claimed to have per­son­ally killed peo­ple in the past.

Nock-Ten, lo­cally known as Nina, forced more than 420,000 vil­lagers to aban­don their Christ­mas cel­e­bra­tions for emer­gency shel­ters and other safer grounds. Power was knocked out in sev­eral prov­inces and flights and fer­ries were grounded, strand­ing would-be pas­sen­gers. About 20 ty­phoons and storms lash the Philip­pines each year. In the past 65 years, seven ty­phoons have hit on Christ­mas Day, the South­east Asian na­tion’s big­gest hol­i­day. The storm was one of the strong­est to hit the Philip­pines since Typhoon Haiyan left more than 7,300 peo­ple dead or miss­ing and dis­placed over 5 mil­lion in 2014. — AP

AL­BAY PROV­INCE: Mo­torists ride past elec­tric posts dam­aged by Typhoon Nock-Ten yesterday. — AFP

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