Typhoon aims at south China af­ter killing 12 in Philip­pines

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - WEATHER - By Aaron Favila and Joeal Calupitan

TUGUE­GARAO, PHILIP­PINES » Typhoon Mangkhut roared to­ward Hong Kong and south­ern China on Sun­day af­ter rav­aging across the north­ern Philip­pines with fe­ro­cious winds and heavy rain that left at least 12 dead in land­slides and col­lapsed houses.

The strong­est storm so far this year in the world sliced across the north­ern tip of Lu­zon Is­land on Satur­day, a bread­bas­ket that is also a re­gion of flood­prone rice plains and moun­tain prov­inces with a his­tory of deadly land­slides. More than 5 mil­lion peo­ple were in the typhoon’s path, which the Hawaii-based Joint Typhoon Warn­ing Cen­ter down­graded from a su­per typhoon. Mangkhut was still punch­ing pow­er­ful winds and gusts equiv­a­lent to a Cat­e­gory 5 At­lantic hur­ri­cane when it hit the Philip­pines.

China and the Philip­pines agreed to post­pone a visit by Chi­nese For­eign Min­is­ter Wang Yi that was to start Sun­day due to the typhoon’s on­slaught, which caused nearly 150 flights, a third of them in­ter­na­tional, to be canceled and halted sea travel.

The Hong Kong Ob­ser­va­tory said although Mangkhut had weak­ened slightly, its ex­ten­sive, in­tense rain­bands were bring­ing heavy down­fall and fre­quent squalls. Storm surge of about 3 ½ me­ters (9.8 feet) or above is ex­pected at the city’s wa­ter­front Vic­to­ria Har­bour, the ob­ser­va­tory said, ap­peal­ing on the pub­lic to avoid the shore­line.

Fran­cis To­lentino, an ad­viser to Philip­pine Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte, said the 12 died mostly in land­slides and houses that got pum­meled by the storm’s fierce winds and rain. Among the fa­tal­i­ties were an in­fant and a 2-year-old child who died with their par­ents af­ter the cou­ple re­fused to im­me­di­ately evac­u­ate from their high-risk com­mu­nity in a moun­tain town in Nueva Viz­caya prov­ince, To­lentino said.

“They can’t de­cide for them­selves where to go,” he said of the chil­dren, ex­press­ing frus­tra­tion that the tragedy was not pre­vented.

To­lentino, who was as­signed by Duterte to help co­or­di­nate dis­as­ter re­sponse, said at least two other peo­ple were miss­ing. He said the death toll could climb to at least 16 once other ca­su­alty re­ports were ver­i­fied.

Mayor Mauri­cio Do­mo­gan said at least three peo­ple died and six oth­ers were miss­ing in his moun­tain city of Baguio af­ter strong winds and rain de­stroyed sev­eral houses and set off land­slides, which also blocked roads to the pop­u­lar va­ca­tion des­ti­na­tion. It was not im­me­di­ately clear whether the deaths and miss­ing cited by Do­mo­gan had been in­cluded in To­lentino’s count.

Au­thor­i­ties were ver­i­fy­ing the drown­ings of three peo­ple, in­clud­ing two chil­dren. About 70 men re­port­edly re­turned to their coastal vil­lage in Ca­gayan to check on their homes as the storm drew closer Fri­day, but To­lentino said he had re­ceived no re­ports of the men fig­ur­ing in an ac­ci­dent.

About 87,000 peo­ple had evac­u­ated from high-risk ar­eas of the Philip­pines. To­lentino and other of­fi­cials ad­vised them not to re­turn home un­til the lin­ger­ing dan­ger had passed.

In Ca­gayan’s cap­i­tal, Tugue­garao, where the typhoon made land­fall, As­so­ci­ated Press jour­nal­ists saw a se­verely dam­aged pub­lic mar­ket, its roof ripped apart and wooden stalls and tar­pau­lin canopies in dis­ar­ray. Out­side a pop­u­lar shop­ping mall, de­bris was scat­tered every­where and gov­ern­ment work­ers cleared roads of fallen trees. Many stores and houses were dam­aged but most res­i­dents re­mained in­doors as oc­ca­sional gusts sent small pieces of tin sheets and other de­bris fly­ing dan­ger­ously.

The Tugue­garao air­port ter­mi­nal also was dam­aged, its roof and glass win­dows shat­tered by strong winds.

The typhoon struck 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.

In Hong Kong, Se­cu­rity Min­is­ter John Lee Ka-chiu urged res­i­dents to pre­pare for the worst.

Cathay Pa­cific said all of its flights would be canceled be­tween 2:30 a.m. lo­cal time on Sun­day and 4 a.m. Mon­day.

“Be­cause Mangkhut will bring winds and rains of ex­tra­or­di­nary speeds, scope and sever­ity, our prepa­ra­tion and re­sponse ef­forts will be greater than in the past,” Lee said. “Each de­part­ment must have a sense of cri­sis, make a com­pre­hen­sive as­sess­ment and plan, and pre­pare for the worst.”

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.

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