Super typhoon kills at least 16 in Philippines
Year’s strongest storm wreaks havoc, but toll lower than expected
CLAVERIA, Philippines — Typhoon Mangkhut, which meteorologists called the most powerful storm in the world this year, swept through the northern end of the Philippine island of Luzon, leaving at least 16 people dead and wreaking havoc. It uprooted trees, ripped off roofs, set off landslides and flooded farms and roads.
Yet amid the suffering, there was also relief that the situation was not much worse. The initial casualty toll was far lower than officials had feared in the days before the storm made landfall early Saturday on the Philippines’ largest and most populous island.
But it could be days or weeks before the storm’s true human toll is known. It will also take time to assess how much damage was done to the country’s prime agricultural region and to the economy. Damage to farms could be extensive — and costly for the nation. The region is the country’s largest food producer.
The number of confirmed fatalities is almost certain to rise as people begin assessing damage from the typhoon. But if the numbers are limited, it will be, at least in part, a testament to the preparedness of authorities following disastrous storms in recent years.
Determined not to see a repeat of Typhoon Haiyan, which killed more than 6,000 people in the central Philippines in 2013, officials had evacuated more than 105,000 people to temporary shelters before Typhoon Mangkhut hit.
Communications in the disaster zone were hampered by power and cell service outages, and access was difficult in many places because of flooding and road closures.
In one community after another, emergency workers reported downed trees and badly damaged buildings. Signs, tin roofs and gates that had been torn free flew about.
The typhoon, with wind speeds reaching 170 mph before reaching land, could have caused far more damage if it had hit Luzon farther south and closer to Manila — a megacity of more than 12 million people.
The area of Luzon that the typhoon hit hardest is primarily agricultural and, with more than 4 million people, is less densely populated than other parts of the country.
Leaving the Philippines behind Saturday evening, Typhoon Mangkhut took aim at Hong Kong and southern China, where it was expected to make landfall on Sunday.
Ducks walk along a cornfield destroyed by strong winds from Typhoon Mangkhut as it barreled across Tuguegarao, Philippines, on Saturday. The storm has its sights on southern China and Hong Kong.