Su­per ty­phoon lashes Philip­pines

275km/h winds, 6m waves force more than a mil­lion peo­ple to flee

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - WORLD -

MANILA: One of the worst ty­phoons on record whipped the Philip­pines yes­ter­day, killing at least three peo­ple and ter­ri­fy­ing mil­lions as mon­ster winds tore apart homes.

Su­per Ty­phoon Haiyan smashed into coastal com­mu­ni­ties on the cen­tral is­land of Sa­mar, about 600km south­east of Manila, with max­i­mum sus­tained winds of about 315km/h.

It then swept across the cen­tral Philip­pines, de­stroy­ing phone and power lines, as well as homes and vi­tal in­fra­struc­ture, caus­ing a mas­sive com­mu­ni­ca­tions black­out.

“It was fright­en­ing. The wind was so strong, it was so loud, like a scream­ing woman. I could see trees be­ing top­pled down,” said Li­way­way Sabuco, a sales­woman.

The death toll was ex­pected to rise, with dis­as­ter re­lief of­fi­cials par­tic­u­larly con­cerned for iso­lated com­mu­ni­ties in Leyte and Sa­mar prov­inces.

One of those com­mu­ni­ties was Guiuan, a fish­ing town of about 40 000 peo­ple that was the first to be hit af­ter Haiyan swept in from the Pa­cific Ocean. Com­mu­ni­ca­tion was cut off.

Com­mu­ni­ca­tion was also cut to Ta­cloban, the cap­i­tal of Leyte with more than 200 000 peo­ple, that ap­peared to be badly dam­aged.

Roofs were ripped off and were car­ried the wind be­fore crash­ing into build­ings.

A tele­vi­sion crew also broad­cast dra­matic footage from Ta­cloban as Haiyan hit, show­ing flash floods that had turned city streets into rivers. But the net­work said it had not heard from the crew since.

An av­er­age of 20 ma­jor storms or ty­phoons, many deadly, bat­ter the Philip­pines each year.

The coun­try is par­tic­u­larly vul­ner­a­ble be­cause it is of­ten the first ma­jor land­mass for the storms af­ter they build over the Pa­cific Ocean.

The Philip­pines suf­fered the world’s strong­est storm of 2012, when Ty­phoon Bopha left about 2 000 peo­ple dead or miss­ing on the southern is­land of Min­danao.

Haiyan’s wind strength made it one of the four most pow­er­ful ty­phoons recorded, and the most in­tense to have made land­fall, ac­cord­ing to Jeff Masters, the direc­tor of mete- orol­ogy at US-based Weather Un­der­ground.

Haiyan gen­er­ated wind gusts of 379km/ h yes­ter­day morn­ing, ac­cord­ing to the US Navy’s Joint Ty­phoon Warn­ing Cen­tre.

Au­thor­i­ties ex­pressed con­fi­dence that the death toll from Haiyan would not climb dra­mat­i­cally, cit­ing a mas­sive effort start­ing two days be­fore the ty­phoon hit to evac­u­ate those in vul­ner­a­ble ar­eas and make other prepa­ra­tions.

More than 748 000 peo­ple had sought shel­ter in evac­u­a­tion cen­tres.

Up to 3 000 fer­ries had been locked down at ports and hun­dreds of flights were can­celled, ac­cord­ing to the na­tional dis­as­ter man­age­ment coun­cil’s spokes­men, Rey­naldo Balido. “In terms of dam­age, we can­not avoid that… but the sil­ver lin­ing here is that the ca­su­al­ties are only three as of now,” Balido said in Manila.

“It is pos­si­ble that this will in­crease, but we don’t think it will in­crease that much more, un­like in pre­vi­ous ty­phoons. The peo­ple have learnt their les­son.”

An­other rea­son for op­ti­mism was that Haiyan did not bring ex­treme rains, which is typ­i­cally the ma­jor cause of deaths for ty­phoons in the Philip­pines.

How­ever the In­ter­na­tional Or­gan­i­sa­tion for Mi­gra­tion warned there would be wide­spread dam­age and ca­su­al­ties.

“It seems likely that the loss of life and dam­age to in­fra­struc­ture will be very sig­nif­i­cant,” said Con­rad Navi­dad, the IOM’s Op­er­a­tions Co­or­di­na­tor in the Philip­pines.

An­other vul­ner­a­ble area was the cen­tral is­land of Bo­hol, the epi­cen­tre of a 7.1mag­ni­tude earth­quake last month that killed 222 peo­ple and where 350 000 peo­ple were liv­ing in tem­po­rary shel­ters.

Haiyan weak­ened slightly as it trav­elled across the cen­tral Philip­pines yes­ter­day, but still main­tained fe­ro­cious max­i­mum winds of 268km/ h, ac­cord­ing to the US Navy’s Joint Ty­phoon Warn­ing Cen­tre.

It was fore­cast that it would exit the Philip­pines later and go into the South China Sea, track­ing to­wards Viet­nam and Laos. – Sapa-AFP

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Fi­nal de­struc­tion of all toxic ma­te­rial by the end of next year, as stated in the draft, would be six months be­yond the orig­i­nal dead­line. How­ever, if that ma­te­rial was no longer in­side Syria, gov­ern­ments seem un­likely to quib­ble.

Elec­tions get un­der way in Mau­ri­ta­nia

NOUAKCHOTT: The cam­paign for Mau­ri­ta­nia’s elec­tions be­gan yes­ter­day in a car­ni­val at­mos­phere de­spite a boy­cott by a large part of the op­po­si­tion which has dis­missed the process as a sham.

The elec­tion com­mis­sion said 438 peo­ple were con­test­ing 147 seats in par­lia­ment.

Arafat ‘poi­son­ing’ lacks ev­i­dence

RA­MAL­LAH: A Rus­sian re­port quoted by Pales­tinian in­ves­ti­ga­tors said there was in­suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence to sup­port the the­ory that Yasser Arafat died in 2004 by polo­nium poi­son­ing – at odds with the find­ings of a Swiss laboratory an­nounced with great fan­fare by Arafat’s widow.

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GENEVA: Iran and world pow­ers may be on the verge of a land­mark deal on Tehran’s nu­clear pro­gramme, with top West­ern di­plo­mats hav­ing high hopes of seal­ing an agree­ment.

But of­fi­cials were warn­ing the talks could still un­ravel over lack of a fi­nal deal.

Egypt sets ten­ta­tive date for vot­ing

CAIRO: Egypt is to hold par­lia­men­tary elec­tions in Fe­bru­ary or March, two months af­ter the coun­try votes on a new con­sti­tu­tion, a for­eign min­istry of­fi­cial said.

Prepa­ra­tions for pres­i­den­tial elec­tions will start within two months af­ter the end of the leg­isla­tive vote, an of­fi­cial said.

PIC­TURE: REUTERS

PANIC: Res­i­dents of Cebu City in the Philip­pines flee Haiyan, the strong­est ty­phoon in the world this year.

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