Typhoon kills 12 in Philip­pines, heads to­ward south­ern China

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - WORLD - BY AARON FAVILA AND JOEAL CALUPITAN

TUGUE­GARAO, Philip­pines — Typhoon Mangkhut lashed the northern Philip­pines with de­struc­tive winds and heavy rain that set off land­slides and de­stroyed homes Satur­day, leav­ing at least 12 peo­ple dead, as Hong Kong and other parts of south­ern China braced for the pow­er­ful storm.

The most fe­ro­cious typhoon to hit the dis­as­ter­prone Philip­pines this year slammed ashore be­fore dawn in Ca­gayan prov­ince on the north­east­ern tip of Lu­zon is­land, 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 at risk from the storm, which the Hawai­ibased Joint Typhoon Warn­ing Cen­ter down­graded from a su­per typhoon. Mangkhut, how­ever, was still punch­ing pow­er­ful winds and gusts equiv­a­lent to a Cat­e­gory 4 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 to­day be­cause of the typhoon’s on­slaught, which caused nearly 150 flights, a third of them in­ter­na­tional, to be can­celed and halted sea travel.

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 who re­port­edly died as the typhoon ap­proached. 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 in­volved in an ac­ci­dent.

Mangkhut’s sus­tained winds weak­ened to 105 miles per hour with gusts of up to 161 mph af­ter it sliced north­west­ward across Lu­zon be­fore blow­ing out to the South China Sea, aim­ing at Hong Kong and else­where in south­ern China.

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

“It’s still a life and death situation,” De­fense Sec­re­tary Delfin Loren­zana said by phone, cit­ing past drown­ings in swollen rivers in moun­tain prov­inces af­ter storms had passed.

Storm warn­ings re­mained in ef­fect in 10 northern prov­inces, in­clud­ing Ca­gayan, which could still be lashed by dev­as­tat­ing winds, fore­cast­ers said. Thou­sands of peo­ple in the typhoon’s path had been evac­u­ated.

At day­break in Ca­gayan’s cap­i­tal, Tugue­garao, 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 was badly dam­aged, its roof and glass win­dows shat­tered by strong winds that also sent chairs, ta­bles and pa­pers flip­ping about in­side, Loren­zana said.

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.

AP PHOTO/AARON FAVILA

A res­i­dent picks up pieces from a tree top­pled by strong winds from Typhoon Mangkhut as it bar­reled across Tugue­garao city in Ca­gayan prov­ince, north­east­ern Philip­pines.

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