At least 28 die as storm slams Philippine island
Damage extensive, but early casualty toll lower than feared
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.
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.