Typhoon kills one, 23,000 evacuated

Manila, October 18

A teenager was crushed to death as powerful Typhoon Koppu tore down trees and houses and unleashed landslides and floods across a wide area of the Philippines today, forcing thousands to flee.

At least eight other people have been reported missing and military and volunteer rescue teams were dispatched to the rice-farming province of Nueva Ecija where rivers burst their banks and flooded several villages, authorities said.

“People are asking for help because the floodwaters are rising. The rescuers cannot penetrate the area as of now,” Nigel Lontoc, the assistant civil defence chief for the region, told AFP. Television footage showed raging brown rivers swallowing up homes and carrying off large debris including tree trunks. The government said more than 23,000 people had already been evacuated from the path of Koppu, which also disrupted ferry services and aviation.

Koppu made landfall before dawn on the remote fishing town of Casiguran, whipping the coast with gusts of up to 210 kilometres an hour for nearly seven hours before moving inland. “Koppu tore off roofs of homes made of light materials. Rivers overflowed, and the roads to the area are blocked by downed power pylons and trees,” Lontoc said.

It later crossed over the Pantabangan Dam in the southern foothills of the Cordillera, the country’s largest mountain range, with gusts of 185 kilometres an hour.

A big tree toppled and crushed a house in Manila, killing a 14-year-old boy and injuring four other people, Alexander Pama, head of the National Disaster Risk Reduction Council, told reporters in Manila.

Officials said more people are expected to flee as the now weakened storm makes its way to the northern tip of Luzon, the Asian country’s largest island and home to about half its national population of 100 million people.

Aurelio Umali, governor of Nueva Ecija province that includes Pantabangan told ABS-CBN said rescuers saw two human bodies floating in one of the flooded villages. However Lontoc said the two bodies have not been recovered. Lontoc said three people in the coastal resort town of Baler, near Casiguran, are missing after a large wave struck their house, and three fishermen are also missing on Manila Bay. The authorities warned heavy rains could still trigger flash floods and landslides in the Cordillera, known for its spectacular rice terraces carved on the slopes of towering mountains.

Lontoc said the rain-soaked mountains also posed a threat to the heavily populated central Luzon region just north of Manila in the coming days.

With dams filling up and forced to let off water, he said huge volumes of runoff are streaming into the Pampanga river.