Two dead, dozens missing in Philippines as Hong Kong raises No 3 signal ahead of Typhoon Utor

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 21 October, 2013, 4:36pm

A powerful typhoon battered the northern Philippines yesterday, toppling power lines and dumping heavy rain across cities and food-growing plains.

Hong Kong's Observatory raised a T3 signal as it prepared for Typhoon Utor, which is heading across the South China Sea in the direction of Guangdong.

Utor would be the first severe typhoon to affect Hong Kong after it was hit by Typhoon Vicente in July last year - the worst storm to hit the city in 13 years.

Lee Shuk-ming, a senior scientific officer at the Observatory, said that under the influence of the outer rainband of Utor, the weather would start to deteriorate today, bringing heavy, squally showers and rough seas.

"According to the present forecast, Utor will gradually edge closer to the south China coast. Local winds will strengthen progressively," said Lee.

In the Philippines, the storm left at least two people dead and 44 missing.

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

TV footage showed a woman swept away by a raging river in neighbouring 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 known what happened to her.

"She has not been found, so she is missing," said Norma Talosig, a regional civil defence director. She said the woman lived alone in a low-lying area and had refused to be evacuated.

Talosig said in northern Nueva Vizcaya province, a 53-year-old farmer drowned while trying to rescue his water buffalo from a flood.

In mountainous Benguet province, a 22-year-old man died after he was pulled from a landslide that hit a canal he was clearing, said regional civil defence official Andrew Alex Uy.

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

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

Eighteen other fishermen from the eastern provinces of Catanduanes and Camarines Norte also were unaccounted for. Authorities were hoping they took shelter, said Office of Civil Defence 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. A higher number of missing had been reported earlier, but some of the fishermen have returned home.

As of late last night, Utor picked up speed as it continued to move away from the country. Government forecaster Joey Figuracion said the typhoon was 230 kilometres northwest of northern Ilocos Sur province's coast, and moving to the northwest.

It was forecast to reach southern China tomorrow.

Office of Civil Defence Administrator Eduardo del Rosario said 1,895 people from three regions had to be evacuated to shelters, with 673 houses damaged.