Philippines assesses damage as Super Typhoon Mangkhut death toll rises to 13
Roughly 4 million people were in the path of destruction the storm slashed through the northern tip of Luzon island
Super Typhoon Mangkhut battered the Philippines with gales and torrential rains, toppling power lines, triggering landslides and damaging an airport before heading toward China’s Guangdong coastline and Hong Kong.
Roughly four million people were in the path of destruction the storm slashed through the northern tip of Luzon island, leaving at least 13 dead.
“As we go forward, this number will go higher,” Ricardo Jalad, head of the national civil defence office, told reporters, referring to the death toll.
As the powerful storm left the Southeast Asian archipelago and barrelled towards Hong Kong, Philippine authorities began sending search teams to remote areas.
The extent of the storm’s destruction began to emerge later on Saturday, with reports of rain-soaked hillsides collapsing, torrents of out-of-control floodwaters and people being rescued from inundated homes.
Just over 105,000 people fled their homes in the largely rural, agricultural region, seeking to escape the fury of the massive typhoon.
Mangkhut was packing sustained winds of 170km/h and gusts of up to 260km/h as it left the Philippines.
An average of 20 typhoons and storms lash the Philippines each year, killing hundreds of people and leaving millions in near-perpetual poverty.
In addition to the 12 killed in the Philippines a women was swept out to sea in Taiwan.
In Cagayan’s capital, Tuguegarao, journalists saw a severely damaged public market, its roof ripped apart and wooden stalls and tarpaulin canopies in disarray. Outside a popular shopping centre, debris was scattered everywhere and government workers clearing 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.
Tuguegarao airport terminal was badly damaged, its roof and glass windows shattered by strong wind, which also sent chairs, tables and papers flipping about inside.
“Among all the typhoons this year, this one [Mangkhut] is the strongest,” Japan Meteorological Agency forecaster Hiroshi Ishihara said on Friday.
“This is a violent typhoon. It has the strongest sustained wind [among the typhoons of this year].”
Survivors were traumatised by the confrontation with the monster typhoon.
“It felt like the end of the world … that was stronger than Lawin,” said Bebeth Saquing, 64, using the local name for Super Typhoon Haima, which was one of the most powerful storms of 2016.
“I did not sleep,” she said by phone from her home, which stood up to Mangkhut’s pounding.
The country’s deadliest on record is Super Typhoon Haiyan, which left more than 7,350 people dead or missing across the central Philippines in November 2013.
Poor communities reliant on fishing are some of the most vulnerable to fierce typhoon winds and the storm surges that pound the coast.
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 Governor Manuel Mamba said.
A government damage assessment was underway except in areas still being battered by wind and rain. Two air force C-130 cargo planes and 10 helicopters were on standby in Manila to help transport rescuers and aid supplies.
The storm’s landfall came hours after Hurricane Florence in the Atlantic hit the North Carolina coast in the US. At its peak, the hurricane had 225km/h winds, the equivalent of a Category 4 storm on the US Saffir-Simpson scale. Florence has since been downgraded to a tropical storm.
Agence France-Presse, Associated Press, Bloomberg