At least 28 die as storm slams Philip­pine is­land

Dam­age ex­ten­sive, but early ca­su­alty toll lower than feared

The Dallas Morning News - - World -

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 28 peo­ple dead and wreak­ing havoc. It up­rooted trees, 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 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, and the de­struc­tion of crops could lead to food short­ages, higher costs and in­fla­tion.

From the road above

Robert Tu­ma­neng’s fish ponds on Satur­day, flood­wa­ters ex­tended as far as the eye could see, with the tips of palm trees and the thatched roofs of wooden shacks barely vis­i­ble in the caramel-col­ored water.

“It was shak­ing like an earth­quake,” said Tu­ma­neng, 55, a fish farmer in the town of Clave­ria on Lu­zon’s north coast. “This storm was dif­fer­ent be­cause the wind was low to the ground like it was crawl­ing and de­stroy­ing ev­ery­thing.”

Mangkhut’s sus­tained winds weak­ened to 105 mph, with gusts of up to 160 mph, af­ter it moved across Lu­zon be­fore blow­ing out to the South China Sea, head­ing to­ward south­ern China and Hong Kong, where a nearly 10-foot storm surge was ex­pected at the city’s Vic­to­ria Har­bor.

Se­cu­rity Min­is­ter John Lee Ka-chiu urged res­i­dents to pre­pare for the worst.

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.

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

The num­ber of con­firmed fatal­i­ties is al­most cer­tain to rise. But if the num­bers are lim­ited, it will be 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 be­cause of flood­ing and road clo­sures, mak­ing it hard to eval­u­ate the storm’s full ef­fect.

In one com­mu­nity af­ter an­other, emer­gency work­ers re­ported downed trees and badly dam­aged build­ings.

Among the ca­su­al­ties was a fam­ily of four killed when a land­slide struck their home in the Cordillera Moun­tains, south of Clave­ria, au­thor­i­ties said.

Pho­tos by Jes Aznar/Getty Images

Res­i­dents walked on flooded streets as Ty­phoon Mangkhut bat­tered their city on Satur­day in Tugue­garao. At least 28 peo­ple were killed on the is­land, but it could be weeks be­fore the storm’s true hu­man toll is known.

The storm up­rooted trees, set off land­slides and flooded farms and roads. Dam­age to farms could be ex­ten­sive — and costly for the na­tion.

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