MANILA: The Philippines set to work clearing debris, reconnecting power and rebuilding flattened houses yesterday after a typhoon swept across the country killing 38 people, with at least eight missing, rescue officials said.
Typhoon Rammasun, the strongest storm to hit the Philippines this year, was heading northwest towards China after cutting a path across the main island of Luzon, shutting down the capital and knocking down trees and power lines, causing widespread blackouts.
The storm destroyed about 7,000 houses and damaged 19,000, the executive director of the National Disaster Agency, Alexander Pama, said. More than 530,000 people had taken refuge in evacuation centres, according to official figures.
Pama put the damage to crops, mostly rice and corn, from the Bicol region, southeast of Manila and the first to be hit by the storm, at around $15m.
Most schools remained closed in the capital and southern Luzon, the most densely populated part of the country with about 17 million people. Power had been restored to just over half of the Luzon grid, a transmission agency official said. Electricity distributor Manila Electric Co said a third of its 1.88 million customers were without power.
Disaster officials were assessing damage but the coconut-growing Quezon province south of Manila appears to have borne the brunt of Rammasun, which intensified into a category 3 typhoon as it crossed the country.
The cyclone is expected to make landfall in China around midday today somewhere between the island of Hainan and the southern province of Guangdong, the Hainan government said on its website, adding that fishing boats had to return to port.
The Ministry of Civil Affairs has already put authorities on alert across a swathe of southern and south-western China to deal with expected damage, especially as torrential rain across a large part of southern China has killed 34 in the last week.
Tropical Storm Risk downgraded Rammasun to a category 1 storm on a scale of one to five. But it predicted it would gain in strength to category two within 24 hours, picking up energy from the warm sea.
Quezon governor David Suarez said the province was preparing to declare a state of calamity. He said officials had confirmed seven people died in the province.
“Last night we had difficulty going around because many trees and fallen poles are blocking highways and roads,” Suarez said in a radio interview.
Meanwhile, dozens of people have died in the past week as torrential rain batters swathes of China, with at least six killed by lightning, thousands of homes destroyed and more than 300,000 evacuated, state media said.
There had been six deaths from lightning strikes in the central province of Jiangxi since last Friday, the official Xinhua news agency reported. There were other fatalities from lightning in Guizhou in the southwest, it said, where a total of seven people died.
A landslide in the province early yesterday buried eight people, Xinhua said, with two rescued by mid-morning but six still missing. Another landslide in the southwestern province of Yunnan on Wednesday left at least nine people dead, Xinhua said.
Officials are bracing for more devastation, the China Daily said, reporting a warning that “local authorities should make full-scale preparations for geological disasters that could be triggered by rains.” The most severe downpours, which began on Sunday night, destroyed 5,800 homes and damaged another 16,300 in Guizhou, Xinhua said in a report.
Three people were reported missing and more than 91,000 relocated in the province, the report added.
Five people were killed and 14 missing in landslides in Anhua county in Hunan, also in central China. Across the province the torrential rain has destroyed 1,330 homes and forced 283,000 people to be relocated.