Su­per typhoon kills at least 16 in Philip­pines

Year’s strong­est storm wreaks havoc, but toll lower than ex­pected

Houston Chronicle Sunday - - WORLD - By Han­nah Beech and Richard C. Paddock NEW YORK TIMES

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.

Aaron Favila / Associated Press

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.

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