Philippines battered by massive typhoon

AFP-JIJI, AP

A powerful typhoon battered the northern Philippines on Monday, toppling power lines and dumping heavy rain across mountains, cities and food-growing plains. The storm killed at least one man in a landslide and left 45 fishermen missing.

Typhoon Utor, described as the strongest globally so far this year, slammed ashore in mountainous eastern Aurora province with sustained winds of 175 kph and gusts of up to 210 kph.

Footage from ABS-CBN TV network showed a woman swept away by a raging river in neighboring Isabela province. The woman waved her hands for help as she struggled to hang on to debris while being buffeted by huge waves in the muddy waters. It was not immediately clear what happened to her.

“We have no official report yet, and we do not know if up to this time she has not been rescued,” said Norma Talosig, a regional civil defense director. She said the woman lived alone in a low-lying area in San Agustin town and refused to be evacuated.

In mountainous Benguet province, a 22-year-old man died on the way to a hospital after he was pulled from a landslide that hit the roadside canal he was clearing, said regional civil defense official Andrew Alex Uy.

The typhoon triggered waves of up to 2.5 meters and left scores of fishermen missing.

In northern Pangasinan province, 25 fishermen on board three boats failed to return home, said provincial police spokesman Senior Inspector Ryan Manongdo.

Twenty people from the eastern provinces of Catanduanes and Camarines Norte also were unaccounted for. Authorities were hoping they just took shelter in coves and nearby islands, said Office of Civil Defense regional director Bernardo Alejandro IV.

“I hope they’re just waiting for the typhoon to pass and will show up as soon as the weather clears,” he said.

As of Monday afternoon, the typhoon had crossed the Philippines’ main northern island of Luzon and was off the country’s northwestern coast with winds of 140 kph and gusts of 170 kph, government weather forecaster Jun Galang said.

He said the typhoon may intensify over the South China Sea as it moves toward China. He said the storm carried a lot of rain but was moving fast, so the rainfall was not concentrated in one area. Utor was forecast to make landfall in Guangdong, China, on Wednesday.

About 1,000 residents in the central Philippines’ Bicol region spent the night in shelters, while Aurora province was without power, the national disaster agency said. Radio stations reported that some roofs were blown off and a covered basketball court washed away in the town of Dinalungan.