Typhoon tracks toward China after killing 28 in Philippines
TUGUEGARAO, Philippines — Typhoon Mangkhut lashed the northern Philippines with destructive winds and heavy rain that set off landslides and destroyed homes Saturday, killing at least 28 people, as Hong Kong and other parts of southern China braced for the storm.
The strongest storm so far this year in the world sliced across the northern tip of Luzon Island, a breadbasket that is also a region of flood-prone rice plains and mountain provinces with a history of deadly landslides. More than 5 million people were in the path of the typhoon, equivalent to a Category 5 Atlantic hurricane when it hit the Philippines. Early Sunday, it packed sustained winds of 96 mph and gusts of up to 118 mph.
The Hong Kong Observatory said although Mangkhut had weakened slightly, it was bringing heavy rains. Storm surge of about 9.8 feet or more was expected at the city’s waterfront.
Francis Tolentino, an adviser to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, said the victims died mostly in landslides and houses that were pummeled by the storm. 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 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.
Mangkhut’s sustained winds weakened to 105 mph 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 had 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,” said Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, citing past drownings in swollen rivers in mountain provinces after storms had passed.
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.
In Hong Kong, Security Minister John Lee Ka-chiu urged residents to prepare for the worst as the storm barreled toward the city. China issued an alert saying Mangkhut would make landfall somewhere on the coast in Guangdong province by Sunday evening.
Philippine soldiers assist a family carrying its sick child after an ambulance was blocked by debris in Cagayan province.
Residents of Zhanjiang in China’s Guangdong province stock up on food and supplies at a market ahead of the storm.