16 killed, 11 missing as typhoon lashes Philippines, causes power outages, cancels flights

By Oliver Teves, AP
Wednesday, July 14, 2010

16 killed, 11 missing as typhoon hits Philippines

MANILA, Philippines — The first typhoon to lash the Philippines this year flooded parts of the capital, toppled power lines and killed at least 22 people Wednesday, many of them trying to scramble to safety as the storm changed course.

Twelve people were missing, including 10 fishermen whose boats were overturned by waves.

More than half of the main northern island of Luzon, which includes Manila, was without electricity, and authorities said it would take two to three days to restore power. Several dozen flights were canceled, and schools and many government offices closed. High winds felled trees and floods were knee-deep floods in some communities in the capital.

Heavy rains, unrelated to the typhoon, have also wreaked havoc in China and Japan. The death toll from rain-triggered landslides rose to 37 in western China, and workers raced to drain overflowing reservoirs in the southeast. Flooding has killed 107 people in China so far this month, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

Storms in southern and western Japan left one dead and three missing. A woman drowned in a swollen river, and two women in their 70s were among the missing, according to police. Nearly 10,000 homes were evacuated.

More rain was predicted into Thursday in both Japan and China.

In the Philippines, many died while fleeing the typhoon’s fury, regional disaster operations officer Fred Bragas said. The 22 deaths were spread over six provinces and a city, mostly near Manila.

Newly elected President Benigno Aquino III scolded the weather bureau for failing to predict that the storm would hit Manila.

“This is unacceptable,” Aquino told officials during a meeting of the National Disaster Coordinating Council, noting that government agencies were relying on the weather bureau for their preparations. “I hope this is the last time we are all brought to areas different from where we should be.”

Weather bureau chief Prisco Nilo explained that it takes forecasters six hours to update weather bulletins. The weather bureau has complained of lack of funding and equipment.

The Philippines is hit by about 20 typhoons and storms a year, gaining a reputation as the welcome mat for the most destructive cyclones from the Pacific. Last year, back-to-back typhoons inundated Manila and outlying provinces, killing nearly 1,000 people.

Typhoon Conson came ashore on the east coast of Luzon on Tuesday night with winds of 75 miles per hour (120 kilometers per hour), said government weather forecaster Bernie de Leon. It weakened to a tropical storm as it crossed the rice-growing island and buffeted Manila on Luzon’s west coast for two hours.

The storm then headed out to the South China Sea before dawn and is expected to make landfall again later this week in China, west of Macau.

One man drowned trying to save a dozen pigs in a swollen lake south of Manila, while his companion was swept away and is missing, Bragas said.

Two others died in a nearby province: a 63-year-old man who slipped and hit his head on a wall while fleeing his home at the height of the storm, and a woman who was struck by a flying tin roof and other debris, Bragas said.

A concrete wall of a cement warehouse collapsed and pinned four carpenters to death in southern Laguna province while a landslide killed a man in his house in nearby Tagaytay City. The man’s son remains missing in the landslide, Bragas said.

East of Manila, a man died as he was pinned by a concrete light post that fell on him while he was trying to tie a rope to it to secure his shanty from strong winds.

In Batangas province, a 47-year-old woman was electrocuted by a power line that snapped, and two children died after a large mango tree crashed into their home as they slept, Bragas said.

Authorities and civilian volunteers on Wednesday rescued nine of 19 fishermen who had disappeared when big waves overturned their boats off the island province of Catanduanes, regional military spokesman Maj. Harold Cabunoc said. The other 10 remained missing.

Up to 3,100 people were stranded in ports waiting for the weather to clear.

The Manila International Airport Authority said 63 flights, including four international ones, had been canceled and nine had been diverted since late Tuesday.

Classes were suspended in schools and most universities in Manila. Several government offices, including the Senate, closed because of the power outage. Thousands of commuters were stranded when the blackouts disrupted train services. Many hotels and shopping malls were relying on their own generators.

Associated Press writers Jim Gomez, Teresa Cerojano, Hrvoje Hranjski, Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo and Chi-Chi Zhang in Beijing contributed to this report.

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